Tooth Colored Fillings
One of the most common procedures performed by the dentist is to restore decayed teeth with a filling. Until about 20 years ago, back teeth (molars and bicuspids) were routinely restored with dark, mercury-containing amalgam fillings. In its day, this was a great restoration. However, advances in dental materials have made it so that this is no longer the restorative material of choice. Amalgam fillings have even become “taboo” due to the emission of mercury vapors from the filling as it wears down over time.
Most dentists who are on the cutting edge now use a restorative material called composite (dental plastic) to fill teeth. Composite material matches the color of teeth, and therefore, is often referred to as tooth colored filling. A tooth might be diagnosed as needing a composite filling due to…..
- initial decay
- an old filling that is leaking and getting new decay but there is still enough tooth structure to warrant a filling instead of a crown
- a broken or chipped tooth
- to improve the contour or function of a tooth
- to replace unsightly and unhealthy old amalgam fillings
- to fill in gumline abrasions and erosions.
Using composite to fill teeth is ideal because the material is chemically bonded to the tooth so it actually reinforces and strengthens the tooth. The old silver fillings (amalgams) were mechanically retained. This meant that additional tooth structure had to be removed to create undercuts to help hold onto the filling. With composites, now fillings can be more conservative since they don’t rely on mechanical retention. Another significant advantage with composite fillings is that they more closely match the expansion and contraction of natural tooth structure in response to temperature changes during eating. Amalgams, however, expand and contract more than natural teeth which causes the teeth to crack from these forces. Many teeth with old silver fillings end up needing crowns because of this. Some people choose to have their old silver fillings removed as a preventative measure. And, it almost goes without saying that the esthetics of composite over any other type of filling material is far superior.