By some accounts, dental amalgam has been used in restorative dentistry for nearly 500 years. The history of treating decay with metal amalgam has underscored its reliability and effectiveness, but dental and medical practices can only be used for so long until they are replaced by superior technology. After all, why rely on practices from previous decades when new and improved methods are currently available? As such, a variety of dental materials are now available for patients who require fillings, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Although our Bismarck dental practice continues to offer amalgam fillings, why not consider one of our tooth-colored materials for an improved smile? Use the information below to compare your options so that you can make the best choice for your teeth.
Tooth-colored Filling Materials
Tooth-colored fillings, or white fillings, usually refer to those that are made of composite resin. This synthetic polymer is able to blend in with one’s natural tooth color, as opposed to the dark metallic color of silver amalgam. The filling process is essentially the same: decay is removed from teeth and the cavity is cleaned out before being filled with the dental material. Both amalgam and composite are equally effective at restoring lost tooth tissue, but the latter also provides aesthetic and structural benefits, as further explained below.
Although not typically referred to as a filling, porcelain can also be used in the replacement of lost tissue. These restorations are more commonly called inlays and onlays. Like all porcelain restorations, inlays and onlays are created outside the tooth from digital or physical impressions, before being cemented in place. Porcelain is particularly good at replacing tooth tissue in both appearance and function, and although the procedure is different from traditional fillings, this tooth-colored material offers its own array of benefits.
The Benefits of White Fillings
When you opt for composite resin fillings, you gain all of the following advantages:
- Subtle appearance: Composite has a similar color to enamel, and comes in a variety of shades to more closely match a patient’s smile. Most white fillings are barely noticeable, and are a vast improvement over the aesthetics of amalgam.
- Easy bond: Composite bonds to tooth tissue naturally, resulting in fillings that adhere on their own. Whereas amalgam requires extra drilling to prepare the surface to grip the filling, composite allows patients to retain more of their healthy tooth tissue.
- Insulation: Because amalgam is more receptive to hot and cold temperatures, it can expand within the tooth during quick or extreme temperature changes. This can cause pressure, leading to discomfort or even cracks. Composite is far better at insulating a tooth, preventing discomfort and damage.
For the improvement to appearance alone, composite fillings are a popular choice among patients. And with the increasing durability of resins, many tooth-colored fillings can be expected to last nearly as long as amalgam.
The Benefits of Porcelain Inlays and Onlays
Inlays and onlays can fill many of the same cavities as traditional fillings, as well as larger areas of damage that require more than just a filling. Additionally, porcelain offers advantages in aesthetics and resilience that give it a clear advantage over most, if not all, other materials:
- Enamel-like texture: The surface of porcelain has visual qualities that are nearly identical to enamel, reflecting light in a way that is sure to blend in with the rest of your teeth.
- Complementary colors: Porcelain comes in a wide variety of shades, allowing the dentist to accurately match your inlay or onlay to the precise color of your teeth.
- Structural support: Inlays and onlays can support and strengthen teeth beyond the ability of normal fillings, making them a better option for patients with larger cavities or tissue damage.
- Longevity: Porcelain inlays and onlays can normally be expected to last at least as long as amalgam fillings, and can even go 20 or 30 years without accruing much wear or discoloration.
Although porcelain restorations are more expensive than alternative materials, many patients find the investment well worth it. When it comes to the health and beauty of your smile, porcelain restorations offer some of the most rewarding treatment.
Learn More about Your Filling Options
Dental fillings are a common restorative practice, but no two patients are alike. To discuss your dental needs and possible options for treatment, schedule an exam or consultation with us.