If you’re over 30, just about everyone has at least one silver filling in his or her molars. Fillings, as their name implies, fill the space in a tooth where dental decay has been removed. Silver amalgam has been the filling material of choice since the 1800s, but tooth-colored fillings made from composite resin are rapidly making amalgam a thing of the past. Dr. DeStefano prefers to place tooth-colored fillings for his patients.
What is a tooth-colored filling?
Composite resin is a mix of plastic and glass and the color can be selected to very closely match the color of your natural teeth. This makes composite resin fillings virtually impossible to see when a person has his or her mouth open. This is a far cry from silver amalgam, which highly contrasts with your white teeth and is there for all to see.
silver amalgam fillings vs tooth-colored fillings
Silver amalgam has been used to fill teeth since the 1800s. It has been a long-lasting, effective solution. But silver amalgam isn’t pure silver; it is made of a variety of metals, including traces of mercury. Most people no longer feel very good about placing mercury in their teeth. Plus because amalgam is metal, it expands and contracts with hot and cold. Over time, this can create minute fractures in a tooth, weakening the tooth. This requires eventually replacing the filling as it begins to loosen and open the door for decay to form around the filling.
Composite resin fillings actually bond to the tooth surface. A tooth-colored filling pulls inward on the tooth, adding strength. Plus, when placing an amalgam filling, Dr. DeStefano must remove more of the healthy tooth material to create room for the filling. Because composite resin bonds to the tooth, it is not necessary to remove the same amount of healthy tooth material. The obvious advantage to tooth-colored fillings is just that — they are the same color as the tooth, so they are basically invisible.
Tooth-Colored Filling Advantages
- Composite fillings match the color or your tooth enamel, so they blend perfectly and cannot be seen.
- Composite is metal- and mercury-free.
- The filling is bonded to the tooth, which actually pulls inward on the tooth’s periphery, making the tooth stronger.
- Tooth-colored fillings require less healthy tooth tissue to be removed.
The tooth-colored filling placement Process
Once Dr. DeStefano removes the decay from a tooth, he thoroughly cleans and disinfects the area. He then places the composite resin layer by layer. Each layer must harden under a curing light before applying the next layer. He sculpts the resin to conform to the natural shape of the tooth. When satisfied with the appearance, and the final layer is hard, Dr. DeStefano polishes the tooth. Now the patient’s tooth is free of decay, healthy, and has an invisible restoration.
How long do composite fillings last?
Earlier forms of composite resin weren’t as durable as today’s resins. Because of this, dentists would only use early resins for small fillings on non-molars. But technological advancements keep increasing the strength and durability composite resin, making it a perfect option for all fillings. Today, tooth-colored fillings are more popular than amalgam. Although there is some conflicting research based on older resins, both tooth-colored fillings and amalgam are showing an average lifespan of around 12 years.
Do tooth-colored fillings cost more?
Because composite resin costs more than silver amalgam, tooth-colored fillings cost from 10 to 20 percent more than amalgam. Dr. DeStefano believes the minor variation in cost, however, is more than made up for by the advantages of these basically invisible, beautiful tooth restorations.