Dental fillings are used to restore healthy function when a tooth is compromised by injury or decay, preventing further damage. While fillings are quite durable, they are not indestructible. Most dental fillings will eventually need to be replaced.
Years ago, your only option to repair a compromised tooth was to have your dentist remove the decay and fill your tooth with a metal filling, silver amalgam. Today’s dental fillings allow your dentist to repair areas of decay or replace damaged fillings with a composite resin that more closely resembles healthy tooth enamel. There are many advantages to restoring the health of your smile with composite fillings.
The Many Benefits of Selecting Composite Restorations
The metallic fillings that have been used in dentistry for more than 150 years, amalgam fillings, are made of copper, tin, and silver alloys bonded with mercury. While amalgam fillings are considered the lowest cost method of tooth restoration, many dentists and their patients, are choosing to forgo the use of mercury-containing amalgam fillings in favor of resin composite fillings.
Composite fillings, sometimes called white fillings, are created with a mixture of finely ground glass-like particles and acrylic resin, the same type of material used in cosmetic bonding. They do not contain mercury. Composite fillings are similar in color to tooth enamel and help keep your smile looking much healthier when compared to their silver counterparts. Just a few of the many significant benefits of composite resin dental restoration include:
Composite Fillings Bond with Tooth Surfaces
Composite fillings are durable, resilient and resistant to fracture, a common cause of restoration failure (damaged fillings). Because amalgam fillings cannot bind with teeth, they cannot reinforce the structural integrity of the damaged area and can cause teeth to fracture under pressure. Composite fillings bind with tooth enamel and strengthen damaged areas.
Allows Your Dentist to Preserve More Tooth Surface
Since amalgam fillings can’t bond with teeth; dentists need to create a larger space within a damaged tooth to create an area capable of holding the filling in place. To hold a silver filling in place, the opening created by a dentist has to be deeper and wider than the original area of decay. Since composite fillings bond with tooth structure, your dentist can repair your tooth with less drilling and a smaller filling than when using silver amalgam.
Closely Matches the Color of Your Teeth
Since your dentist uses the same type of composite material for filling teeth as used for cosmetic bonding, your filling will closely match the healthy area of your filled tooth. This cosmetic advantage is particularly appealing to those who need a filling in an area that shows while they are smiling or talking. Tooth-colored fillings look so natural they are nearly undetectable.
Will Not Contribute to Tooth Discoloration
Metallic fillings darken with age as the metals corrode. As fillings darken, they can cause your teeth to take on a grayish hue over time. Since composite fillings are the same color as your natural tooth, they will not interfere with the color or brilliance of your smile.
All Fillings Eventually Need Replacing
Many people mistakenly believe that once a tooth is restored, the filling will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Regardless of the type of material used to restore the function of your tooth, fillings are not indestructible. On average, amalgam fillings need to be replaced every 10-15 years, sooner if there is any sign of damage or wear. Composite fillings, though they have significant advantages, may need to be replaced a bit more often.
Evaluating the condition of your existing fillings is just one of the many reasons to see your dentist regularly. Identifying the early signs of damage or wear gives your dentist the opportunity to replace the restoration before a cracked or worn filling causes infection, pain, or significant damage to the remaining structure of your tooth. Some of the most commonly reported causes of damaged fillings include:
- Stress on the restoration from chewing, tooth grinding (bruxism), and jaw clenching
- A broken seal between the filling and the tooth caused by bacteria or wear
- Decay around the edge of a filling from plaque accumulation
- Damage caused by chewing on non-food items or crunching on ice
Regular office visits allow your dentist the opportunity to monitor the condition of your dental restorations. If you notice signs of a failed filling between visits, a toothache or sensitivity to temperature or pressure, it’s time to schedule a visit to your dentist. Unresolved damage can lead to dental infection, abscess, and tooth fractures.
Composite Fillings May Be Your Best Option
While there are many advantages to filling cavities and replacing damaged fillings with composite fillings, there may be situations where a dentist might consider an amalgam (silver) filling the better option based on the size and location of the decayed or damaged area. Some patients still prefer silver, particularly where fillings don’t show, because amalgam fillings do cost a bit less.
Having your teeth filled with a composite resin filling is a little different than you might be used to if you have silver fillings. After your tooth is prepared and the resin is set in place, the filling will be “cured,” hardened with a blue light. While the aftercare for a composite filling is similar to the aftercare of amalgam, the restoration is fully hardened when you leave the office. There is no need to wait for your filling to “set” before you can eat.
Learn More About Composite Composite Fillings
Dental patients, and their dentists, find resin composite fillings a welcome alternative to silver fillings. Composite fillings are attractive, durable, and help strengthen teeth. Many are having their silver fillings replaced because composite fillings are cosmetically more appealing.
If you suspect you have a damaged filling or a new cavity, it’s important to see your dentist quickly to minimize your risk of a painful infection. It’s much easier to treat small issues than wait until they create significant problems. In Oceanside, CA, contact North Coast Dental Excellence for family dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, emergency dental services, and the highest quality dental care.