Enjoy a More Natural Smile with Composite Dental Fillings
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic health conditions. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent it, and in cases where decay is unavoidable, a dental filling is an affordable, natural-looking, and safe solution. Not only are our fillings at River City Family Dentistry some of the most aesthetic restorations available today, but they are strong and long-lasting as well.
Dental Fillings—The Best Solution for Tooth Restoration
At River City Family Dentistry, we rely on high-quality materials, latest technology, and advanced techniques to create restorations for our patients that last a lifetime. Our goal is to create results that are designed to be virtually undetectable. We use tooth-colored fillings as restorations when our patients have:
- Tooth decay
- Chipped teeth
- Cracked teeth
How do I know if I need a filling?
If you are experiencing discomfort in your teeth, you may be a good candidate for a filling. Teeth sensitivity is an effective indicator of decay or fracture. When you come in for an evaluation, Dr. Payne directs you to the appropriate dental treatment for your situation. We typically recommend fillings as the best solution for restoring teeth that have severe tooth decay, cracks, chips and cavities.
Cavity Prevention — What can I do to prevent the need for a filling?
The best way to fight cavities and maintain healthy gums and teeth is to keep up on your daily habit of proper oral hygiene. Here are 5 ways to ward off tooth decay and prevent cavities:
- Come in to our office for a comprehensive oral exam and regular cleanings.
- Brush after meals and use an antimicrobial mouthwash.
- Drink more water and cut back on sugary and acidic drinks.
- Develop the habit of flossing every night.
- Avoid smoking.
Dental Fillings—The Process
The procedure for placing a composite resin dental filling is a routine treatment that we do every day at River City Family Dentistry. Here’s how it works:
- Dr. Payne isolates the tooth from saliva to keep it dry.
- Any dental decay is removed.
- An etchant and a bonding agent are applied, followed by the composite resin.
- A special light is used to harden each layer of composite resin material.
- After the tooth is filled, the composite resin is shaped to resemble a real tooth.
- Finally, the restoration is smoothed and polished to accommodate your bite.
What’s the difference between a filling and an inlay/onlay?
A filling does what it says it does—it is filling in a cavity, a hole that has been created by decay or trauma, essentially restoring normal tooth anatomy. When we create a filling from composite resin, we shade the white material so that it blends naturally with your surrounding tooth structure. The result is a restoration that is practically invisible.
Inlays and onlays are used when the damage or decay to a tooth requires more than a filling—but less than a crown. In other words, if your tooth does not have enough tooth structure for a filling but it is not so severely damaged that it warrants a crown, you may be an excellent candidate for an inlay or onlay.
Made of porcelain, an inlay is crafted at a dental lab by an expert ceramist and cemented into or onto the center of the tooth, inside the cusp tips of the tooth. An onlay covers the top chewing surface of the tooth. We use porcelain because it very closely mimics enamel and offers decades of strength and security.
What are composite resin fillings and restorations?
Composite resin fillings are the most common alternative to dental amalgam. They are sometimes called “tooth-colored” or “white” fillings because of their color. Composite resin fillings are made of a type of plastic (an acrylic resin) reinforced with powdered glass filler. Composite resin is often placed in layers to build up the final restoration, then cured with an “ultra-violet light”. This light energy speeds up a chemical reaction of the components causing the soft material to harden and bond to the tooth. This material is considered safe. The color (shade) of composite resins can be customized to closely match surrounding teeth. This plastic and glass mixture contains no metal and can be shaped to resemble a real tooth. It is usually hard to tell that a tooth has even been filled!
Composite resin fillings have several advantages. The “white” color is preferred by many patients due to its ability to blend in with surrounding teeth. It is also possible to make a more conservative preparations when using composite material, thus enabling the dentist to preserve more natural tooth structure.
- Benefits of Composite Resin Restorations
- Preferred white/natural-looking color
- Better for smaller fillings
- Preservation of more tooth structure
Since the resin used in tooth-colored restorations contains fluoride, it can help prevent decay. The resin wears like natural teeth and does not require placement at the gum line, another advantage that reinforces gum health.
Dental Amalgam or Silver Fillings
Dental amalgam is a filling material that has been used by dentists for over 150 years. A mixture of metals that typically includes silver, copper, and tin, dental amalgam fillings (often referred to as silver fillings or metal filings) also contain mercury, which has raised safety concerns among patients from time to time.
In response to those concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), American Dental Association (ADA), and other organizations have conducted numerous studies over several decades and have repeatedly found that the small amount of mercury released during placement and removal of amalgam fillings does not cause adverse health effects.
Amalgam fillings remain a safe, cost-effective, and durable choice when it comes to the restoration of decayed teeth.
Frequently Asked Questions about Amalgam Fillings
Why is amalgam still used to fill teeth when composite materials are available?
While composite (or tooth colored) fillings are more durable than ever thanks to advancements in technology, there are still many cases where amalgam fillings perform better (and longer). This is often the case with teeth that are naturally subjected to extensive chewing force, such as molars. Mercury is an important part of the amalgam mixture as it contains unique elements that allow it to be manipulated with ease during placement and then harden quickly after. In addition to the benefits of longevity, amalgam fillings are also more affordable than composites.
What concerns are there with mercury and its effects on the body?
Mercury is a naturally occurring metal and one that we are exposed to in small amounts through water, air, and food throughout our lives. Excessive exposure to mercury can negatively affect the brain and kidneys. However, it is important to understand that amalgam fillings do not cause dangerous levels of mercury exposure. Numerous scientific studies and thoughtful research have led the FDA to stand behind its position: amalgam fillings are a safe and effective restoration method for patients over 6 years of age.
What is the ADA’s position regarding the use of silver amalgam fillings?
A thorough summary of evidence ranging from 2004-2010 led the ADA to reaffirm its position that amalgam is a valuable and safe choice for patients.
When is it appropriate to use composite fillings?
Composite fillings are typically made of a resin and glass mixture, tinted to the color of your tooth, and commonly referred to as white or tooth-colored fillings. They serve an important purpose for teeth that are visible when smiling, providing an aesthetic benefit not afforded by silver fillings. While resin composite fillings undoubtedly look better than amalgam ones, they are generally considered to be less durable, and therefore may not be ideal for teeth that are subject to extreme chewing and biting forces. However, it is worth noting that composite materials continue to benefit from technological advancements, contributing to enhanced durability. The ADA supports composite materials in small or mid-size fillings on teeth that are exposed to moderate pressure from chewing and acknowledges that they are a good choice for a more natural-looking filling.
The bottom line
The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.
If you still have concerns about amalgam fillings, please do not hesitate to call our office. It is important to us that you fully understand all available options when it comes to your oral health.
The result of high-quality composite fillings is a beautiful, healthy smile. For more information about our dental fillings, call our office today! River City Family Dentistry Phone Number (502) 893-0176