Many people are afraid to smile or throw their heads back and laugh. If you have had cavities filled with amalgam, you know this feeling all too well. While amalgam, or metal-based, fillings do a great job of filling cavities, they may also weaken the tooth structurally and leave us with a glaring metallic reminder in our mouths. Austin Dental Center offers tooth colored fillings for both new cavities and also to replace old amalgam fillings that may be preventing us from smiling as much as we would like.
Dentistry is not a static profession; there are advances made all the time as researchers find new and better materials and techniques that allow us to help our patients look and feel their best, while maintaining the health and functionality of their teeth. Composite, or tooth-colored fillings are one such advance that can improve the quality of your smile.
Composite fillings do the same job as amalgam fillings. They are used to fill cavities in order to prevent further decay and restore proper shape and function to the tooth. Instead of metal alloys, however, composite fillings are typically made of porcelain or microscopic glass in an acrylic base. During the procedure, the decay is removed and the area is cleaned. The tooth must then be kept free of saliva as we apply an adhesive and then layers of the composite material. Once the cavity is filled, we use a special light to cure, or harden, the material into place. This procedure takes a little longer than amalgam restorations because the technique has more steps to do them well.
When you are done, however, you have a natural-looking tooth instead of a metallic filling, which can help improve confidence in your smile. This is of particular importance when you have a cavity near the front of your mouth, where an amalgam filling would be much more noticeable.
Many people love the aesthetic value of composite, or tooth-colored fillings but have concerns. Typically, they worry about two things: that composite fillings will not be strong or durable enough for their back teeth and that tooth-colored fillings will cost more to place.
First, it is true that amalgam fillings have traditionally been stronger than composite in terms of their ability to withstand chewing and biting pressure. Many dentists continue to use amalgam on back molars for this reason. However, as the science of dentistry advances, new and better materials and techniques have resulted in techniques and materials to justify their use in the back teeth.
Dr. Glennon has used composite fillings on back teeth exclusively since the mid 1990’s and has found them to not only be much more esthetic than an amalgam placed on the same tooth but also more comfortable since they are less conductive of cold temperatures. They are also bonded into place and therefore reinforce the remaining tooth structure.
These fillings are more difficult to put into place. This results in a slightly longer procedure that is also very technique intensive compared to an amalgam placed on the same tooth. We also use a device called a rubber dam to isolate the tooth whenever we can to help to achieve the highest quality restoration possible.
The other concern is cost. Tooth-colored fillings do cost more than amalgam fillings but the cost difference is not that significant. And our patients find that the more esthetic appearance and increase comfort outweighs the difference in the cost of the restoration.