A dental restoration or dental filling is used to artificially restore the function, integrity, and structure of missing tooth structure. The structural loss typically results from caries or external trauma. 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 volume, and then forms a hard compound. Amalgam 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 a more conservative preparation would be beneficial, composite is the recommended restorative material. These situations would include small occlusal restorations, in which amalgam would require the removal of additional sound tooth structure.
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.
Dental composites are also called white fillings. Crowns and in-lays 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. This may even cause your teeth to fracture.
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 the resin used in some tooth-colored restorations contains fluoride, this can help prevent decay.
The advantage most patients appreciate is a more natural looking restoration that results in a beautiful smile!
Replacing Silver Fillings With A Tooth-Colored Restoration
You can have your silver fillings replaced with composite, others may need to be replaced with porcelain restorations (onlays). The process for lab-fabricated onlays requires two appointments, while composite fillings or Cerec onlays require only one.
For an explanation of the process for a Cerec onlay, please visit the Cerec Page.