Tooth-Colored Fillings

Just about everyone has at least one filling. The condition leading to the need for a filling, dental decay, is the most common form of oral disease. You may think of it as getting a cavity, but that’s not really accurate. The term probably originated from the fact that when the dentist removes the decayed portion of the tooth what’s left is a cavity.
Of course, that cavity can’t be left to fill up with debris; it needs to be filled. Hence, the name “filling.”At Gentle Dentistry, we remove decay and place fillings in teeth every day. But where the standard filling formerly was silver amalgam, Dr. Rasmussen feels tooth-colored fillings are superior.

The problem with silver fillings

Silver amalgam has been used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay since the 1800s. Hundreds of millions of teeth over that time have had silver amalgam fillings.

Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals consisting of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy comprised of silver, tin, and copper. That doesn’t sound like something you’d like to have in your teeth, but there’s one reason for the popularity of amalgam — strength. Amalgam fillings are very durable and can last for decades.

But amalgam fillings have problems:

  • They are unsightly. When you open your mouth everyone can see exactly how many amalgam fillings you have.
  • They require more of the healthy tooth to be removed. Silver amalgam isn’t bonded onto the tooth; it is packed in. To adequately anchor the filling more of the healthy tooth (in addition to the decayed portion) needs to be removed and a ridged surface is created to hold the amalgam.
  • No one wants mercury in his or her mouth. While they’ve been deemed safe, people are less and less interested in having a combination of metals, particularly mercury, in their mouth.
  • Amalgam fillings can crack teeth. Because the metals expand and contract with hot and cold, amalgam fillings can cause the tooth to crack.

The advantages of tooth-colored fillings

Dr. Rasmussen prefers composite resin for filling teeth. Cosmetically, these fillings are far superior to amalgam; they are basically invisible in your tooth. Composite resin is a combination of powdered glass and acrylic resin, and technology is making it more and more durable. Unlike amalgam, composite resin bonds to the tooth, rather than simply being packed down into it.

Tooth-colored fillings have various advantages over amalgam:

  • Composite and porcelain fillings match the color or your tooth enamel, so they blend perfectly and cannot be seen.
  • Composite is metal- and mercury-free.
  • The filling is bonded to the tooth, which actually pulls inward on the tooth’s periphery, making the tooth stronger.
  • Tooth-colored fillings require less healthy tooth tissue to be removed.

Are tooth-colored fillings durable?

Earlier forms of composite resin for fillings weren’t as strong as they are today. In fact, technological changes in resin keep improving its strength. Early resins were only recommended for small fillings on non-molars. That is not true today, as Dr. Rasmussen places composite fillings on all teeth. This explains why composite fillings have become more popular than amalgam.

How is a composite filling placed?

The process for removing the decayed portion of the tooth is the same. Once the decay is gone and the tooth clean, the space is shaped to prepare it for the filling. The space is then etched with an acid gel to aid bonding between the resin and the tooth. The composite resin is then placed in layers, hardened each time with a light. After the filling is complete, any high spots are removed and the tooth is polished.

Can I replace a silver filling?

More and more people are opting to have their silver amalgam fillings removed and replaced with composite resin. The process is not difficult and it can actually strengthen your tooth. As silver amalgam expands and contracts, it can crack a tooth. This is especially true as the filling and the tooth age. Your new tooth-colored filling will be virtually invisible.

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