A dental restoration or dental filling is a dental restorative material used artificially to restore the function, integrity and morphology of missing tooth structure. The structural loss typically results from caries (decay) or external trauma (fracture). Dental restorations may be fabricated out of a variety of materials.
Dental Amalgam is a commonly used dental filling that has been used for over 150 years. It is a mixture of mercury with at least one other metal. Amalgam has many advantages over other restorative material, such as low cost, strength, durability, and bacteriostatic effects.
Amalgam is used in dentistry for a number of reasons. It is relatively easy to use and manipulate during placement; it remains soft for a short time so it can be packed to fill any irregular shapes and volume, and then forms a hard compound. Amalgam often possesses greater longevity than other direct restorative materials, such as composite. On average, most amalgam restorations serve for 10 to 12 years, whereas resin-based composites serve for about half that time. However, with recent improvements in composite material science and a better understanding of the technique-sensitivity of placement, it should be noted that this difference is decreasing.
There are circumstances in which composite (white fillings) serves better than amalgam; when amalgam is not indicated, or when a more conservative preparation would be beneficial, composite is the recommended restorative material. These situations would include small occlusal (biting surface) restorations, in which amalgam would require the removal of a more sound tooth structure, as well as in highly esthetic regions of the mouth.
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration. However, amalgam fillings are NOT placed in our office.
Dental composites are also called tooth colored fillings. Crowns and inlays can also be made in the laboratory from dental composites. These materials are similar to those used in direct fillings and are tooth colored. Their strength and durability is not as high as porcelain or metal restorations and they are more prone to wear and discoloration.
Many people still have silver/mercury fillings in their mouths from years past. These fillings are not particularly pleasing to the eye, and we know that by unavoidable design, silver/mercury fillings ultimately result in a weaker tooth structure. Porcelain inlays and tooth-colored restorations (onlays) create fillings that are not only beautiful (or unnoticeable), but also add strength to weakened teeth. These restorations are aesthetically pleasing and very strong thanks to new bonding technologies.
Disadvantages of Silver Fillings
Silver fillings have many drawbacks. The edges of the silver filling can wear down, become weak or break. This results in the tooth not being protected and creates an environment where cavities get started once again. With age, the metal of a silver filling expands, contracts, and can split or fracture teeth.
Silver fillings contain 50 percent mercury. They can corrode, leak, and cause stains on your teeth and gums.
Fortunately, silver fillings can safely be replaced with tooth-colored restorations.
Advantages of Tooth-Colored Restorations
There are many advantages to tooth-colored restorations. Resin onlays are bonded to the teeth creating a tight, superior fit to the natural tooth. Such restorations can be used in instances where much of the tooth structure has been lost. The tooth remains intact and stronger.
Since some resins used in tooth-colored restorations contain fluoride, this can help prevent decay. The resin wears like natural teeth and does not always require placement at the gum line, which is healthier for your gums!
The result is a beautiful smile!
Replacing Silver Fillings with a Tooth-Colored Restoration
You can have your silver fillings replaced with tooth-colored restorations (onlays). This process requires only one appointment.
During your Appointment
- The old filling and any additional decay is removed.
- A digital impression is made of your teeth. A model of your teeth is made digitally on a computer-aided device called Cerec.
- A restoration is designed on the model of your teeth.
- The tooth colored restoration is milled from a block of porcelain or composite resin.
- A conditioning gel is placed on your tooth to prepare it for the new onlay.
- Bonding cement is placed on the tooth and a high intensity light bonds the resin or porcelain to the tooth.
- The tooth is then polished.
Your teeth are restored to a natural look and feel, they are stronger and the tooth is protected!