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.
Who is a candidate for Tooth-Colored Fillings?
Dr. DeStefano uses composite resin for both new fillings and for the replacement of old silver amalgam fillings. Of course, if you come see us for your regular twice-yearly cleaning and exam and we discover you have a tooth with decay, you won’t necessarily plan to have a new filling, but more and more we are using composite resin for these fillings.
Also, we have many patients who either want to replace old amalgam fillings for aesthetic reasons or they need to replace them as the filling or fillings are reaching their lifespan. Many of our patients from Pittsford and Rochester no longer like the idea of having mercury in their teeth, and they’d rather have composite resin.
There are no restrictions for whether or not a person can have composite fillings placed.
Are there any risks involved with getting a Tooth-Colored Filling
These are completely safe treatments. The real risk is not having decay removed in a tooth. If decay is left untreated, it will continue to attack more and more of the healthy portion of the tooth. This can eventually make its way into the pulp chamber inside the tooth. When that happens, the infection will interact with the nerve fibers inside the tooth. That will lead to serious pain. Now, Dr. DeStefano will need to perform a root canal just to save the tooth from needing extraction.
That’s exactly why Dr. DeStefano stresses the importance of keeping on your schedule of twice-yearly professional cleanings and oral exams with our team. When you do that, if we find decay, placing the tooth-colored filling is usually an easy job. Having a root canal because you missed a few regular appointments is anything but easy.
Are Tooth-Colored Fillings safe?
These fillings are also known as “composite” fillings because they are made from composite resin. Composite resin is a combination of powdered glass, acrylic resin, and porcelain. Dr. DeStefano uses composite resin for dental bonding in addition to these fillings.
Composite resin has been approved by the American Dental Association for use in these fillings and for bonding. Plus, because Dr. DeStefano has to remove less healthy tooth material to prepare the tooth for a composite filling compared with silver amalgam, this also makes these fillings a superior choice.
silver amalgam fillings vs Composite Fillings
Silver Amalgam 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
Advantages of Tooth-Colored Fillings
- 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.
How long does it take to place a Tooth-colored Filling?
Typically, Dr. DeStefano can place these fillings in an hour or less. A simple filling where very little decay is removed can take as little as 20 minutes or so. A larger filling where more decay needs to be removed can take longer.
Overall, these are quick and easy-to-take treatments to address decay in your tooth. And, when compared with silver amalgam, no one will be able to see which tooth has a new filling in it. It will completely blend in with your adjacent teeth.
Composite Fillings 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.
“Best office around. They are so friendly and work with you. They always are trying to find the best way to accommodate whatever need you may have. I recommend for all ages. Their work is quality. Above and beyond the expectations I had. Thank you so much.” -Amber
Will I have any recovery after having a Tooth-Colored Filling placed?
No. Once Dr. DeStefano places your new filling, you can use the tooth immediately. You won’t have any recovery, and you can get right back to your normal activities.
How long do Tooth-colored 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.
How do I take care of my Tooth-Colored Fillings?
Your normal home hygiene is all that’s needed with these fillings. Brushing twice daily for two minutes with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day is all you need to do. Composite resin fillings tend to not have the same raised areas as silver amalgam, so decay doesn’t form around them as easily as it can around silver amalgam. This is particularly true of older silver amalgam fillings, as they can begin to lift just a bit, and this allows some food particles to become lodged. The bacteria digesting those food particles are what can lead to decay around an old amalgam filling. This is another problem with silver amalgam, as a tooth that develops a new spot of decay in addition to another older filling may now need a crown to return strength because so much decayed tooth material has been removed.
Do Composite 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.