Tooth-colored fillings are made from durable plastics called composite resins. Similar in color and texture to natural teeth, the fillings are less noticeable, and much more attractive, than other types of fillings
White Fillings, or Tooth Colored Fillings, are dental fillings that restore and mimic the appearance of your natural tooth. With teeth that have a cavity, fractured or decayed, tooth colored fillings can be used cosmetically to change the color, size and shape of your teeth.
Similiar to dental bonding, this option is particularly useful in closing gaps between teeth; repairing chipped teeth and making teeth appear to be more straight or even. Distinctive Dentistry recommends Tooth Colored Fillings for the majority of their patients. Not only do our patients prefer the absence of metal color on their teeth, they prefer the reassurance of non-amalgam materials used in their dental restorations.
Tooth colored fillings were first introduced to the American public in the mid 1960's. Since that time tooth colored filling materials have undergone continual improvements in durability, esthetics and material handling. The most versatile and widely used tooth colored filling today is made of a composite resin. A composite is a material in which filler particles are encased in and bound together by a hard matrix material. For composite resin fillings, a fluid matrix of an acrylic, called BIS-GMA, is hardened around glass filler particles to form composite resin.
Tooth colored composite fillings are easily chemically bonded to your teeth. For this reason, the placement of white fillings does not always require numbing the area being restored. Numbing (anesthetizing) the area is often required if tooth decay has progressed beneath the enamel layer and into the underlying dentin layer which surrounds the nerve of the tooth. Once any and all decay is removed, the tooth is cleaned and a tooth primer is applied to the area being restored. The primer opens the pores in the enamel and dentin. A bonding agent is then applied to the open pores and cured. The curing process prepares the bonding agent to adhere to the tooth colored filling material. The filling material is then placed inside the tooth. After shaping the tooth colored filling material to resemble the natural anatomy of your tooth it is hardened by curing with a strong curing light. Once the filling hardens, your bite will be checked to make sure your teeth fit together properly. If the tooth filling extends into the space between your teeth your dentist will also make sure there is room to floss between your teeth properly. Bite fit and adjustments will be made, if necessary, followed by smoothing and polishing of your new filling.
Non-tooth colored alternatives to composite resin are gold inlays and dental amalgam.
Gold inlays are very long lasting and more bio compatible. The cost is higher however, and placement of gold inlays requires at least two visits because gold inlays are made in a dental laboratory.
Dental amalgam is also very strong, second only to gold among alternatives to tooth colored fillings. Dental amalgam fillings are also the least expensive alternative to white fillings and they require only one visit in order to place them. Drawbacks to dental amalgam use include the use of 43% to 54% of elemental mercury in dental amalgam filling material. As the metal in dental amalgam oxidizes with age the filling material often changes color from silver to black. In addition, placement of dental amalgam fillings at the gum line often causes a dark discoloration of the gum tissue around the filling.
Both metals, gold and dental amalgam, are stronger and longer lasting than composite resin (tooth colored) fillings. Both are also good conductors of heat and cold, and as a result, are more prone to producing tooth sensitivity, especially when the restorations are large or deep.
When it comes to selecting the best material for you and your particular needs, consultation with your dentist is key. Strength, aesthetics, cost and longevity of dental filling materials may vary greatly in different situations and for different patients. Some of the considerations your dentist takes into account when recommending a particular filling material for your teeth are the current condition of the teeth, the size of the restoration area, the location of the teeth involved and the forces (chewing, shearing, grinding, etc.) being placed on the teeth during chewing and other normal movements of your jaw.