Why Use Tooth-colored Fillings?

By Joan Kirschner on May 26, 2014

A woman with a healthy smileAs one of the most common restorative dentistry practices, dental fillings are often the first step against developing cavities. According to the ADA, roughly 175 million fillings are placed in America each year. While many of these are still made from metal amalgam, there is now a variety of filling materials to choose from, many of which offer additional benefits. After all, if you are replacing a noticeable amount of your tooth’s tissue, why not opt for a filling that is truly the best replacement?

At our Plymouth dental office, we offer tooth-colored fillings to restore a tooth both in health and appearance. Before undergoing one or more filling procedures, consider the benefits of these realistic tooth-colored dental materials.  

The Case against Amalgam

Traditionally, fillings have been made with a metal amalgam material. Commonly referred to as silver fillings, this alloy is actually a combination of silver, mercury, tin, copper, and other metals. Although it is still commonly used due to its relatively inexpensive cost and potentially long lifespan, more patients are gradually opting for alternative filling options due to a number of factors.

First and foremost, silver fillings stick out like a sore thumb in contrast to surrounding tissue. The metallic surface is easily spotted when near the front of the mouth, and even fillings on molars may be visible in certain instances. Additionally, metal fillings do not bond naturally with tooth tissue, requiring the surface to be made rough for adhesion and causing the removal of extra, healthy tissue. Finally, some metal fillings have been known to expand when exposed to colder temperatures, causing surrounding tissue to crack.    

Composite Resin Fillings and Benefits

The most popular tooth-colored dental material for fillings is composite resin. Although composite does not usually last as long as amalgam, patients benefit from its aesthetic qualities as well as its structural advantages:

  • Realistic color: Composite is colored similarly to natural enamel, blending in subtly with the rest of a tooth. It can also come in a variety of colors, allowing your cosmetic dentist to more accurately match the filling to your smile.
  • Realistic shape: Metal amalgam is limited by its inability to be shaped after it cools, resulting in fillings that only approximate a tooth’s surface. Composite can be more accurately manipulated after the filling hardens, maintaining a tooth’s original shape and occlusal surface. 
  • Natural bond: Composite adheres to tissue on a chemical level, forming a strong bond. This allows cavities to be filled without extra drilling, as is required of amalgam.
  • Stronger teeth: Due to the bond between composite and tissue, a tooth is actually strengthened by the filling, as opposed to just being held in place.

While composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam, the cosmetic benefits alone are often worth the price. And when compared with more expensive materials, such as porcelain or gold, composite resin offers many patients a significant upgrade that is still financially within their reach. 

Porcelain Fillings and Benefits

Porcelain fillings, otherwise known as inlays and onlays, provide their own advantages when compared to amalgam fillings. Unlike other fillings, inlays and onlays are created outside of the mouth, using a mold created from physical or digital impressions. While porcelain is more expensive than both composite and amalgam, patients benefit from superior aesthetics and durability. Specific reasons for using porcelain inlays and onlays include:  

  • Precise color matching: Porcelain comes in a wide variety of shades, giving patients the best chance of matching their fillings to the unique color of their smiles, even beyond that of composite resin.  
  • Tooth-like texture: Porcelain is semi-translucent and light reflective, giving it a strikingly similar textural quality to tooth enamel.
  • Stain resistance: Whereas composite is likely to become stained over time, porcelain is a highly stain resistant material. With consistent hygiene habits, patients are unlikely to see any change in the color of their fillings for many years.
  • Durability: Porcelain’s longevity is comparable to that of metal amalgam, able to last decades without the need for replacement.  

Call Us for More Information

Visit our office to find out more about our dental filling options, along with our other restorative dentistry services. Call or email us to schedule your appointment today.

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