Out with the Old, In with the New: The Benefits of Tooth-Colored Fillings
- Posted on: Apr 15 2018
There is an old saying that everything old becomes new again. It’s true that we see certain trends circle around every few decades or so. Glittery eyeshadow, for example, or bushy mustaches and beards. Some of what goes out of style stays out of style, and it should. Not many people lament for their old station wagon, or for the metal dental crowns that used to be popular for front-tooth restoration.
In dentistry, a lot has changed over time in order to meet the desire for an attractive appearance. Metal crowns still exist but are usually covered with an overlay of porcelain. Another change that is improving patient outcomes is the tooth-colored filling. This treatment option offers several advantages over metal fillings.
Drawbacks to the Metal Filling
Metal fillings, called amalgams or “silver fillings,” were initially developed in the mid-1800s. Their prime benefit at that time was that metal alloy was a more affordable material than gold, which allowed more people to get teeth fixed rather than experience tooth loss. Interestingly, the long-term merit of dental amalgam would go unchallenged for many decades. It has only been recently that tooth-colored fillings have come to be recognized for their lasting value.
Dental amalgam is revered for its durability. There is no arguing the fact that amalgam can last many years. What studies have demonstrated, though, is that metal fillings may be too strong for the average tooth. When metal heats up, it swells. The enamel around a metal filling doesn’t expand enough to adequately accommodate this, which presents a risk of fracture at some point.
An additional drawback to metal fillings is that more extensive tooth alteration is necessary to create a pocket in which material can sit.
Benefits of the Tooth-Colored Filling
The most obvious advantage of a tooth-colored filling is its appearance. Most people find the idea of silver fillings unappealing because there is no way to hide them when they laugh or smile. With a composite filling that is shaded to match surrounding enamel, there is no evidence whatsoever of dental work.
Appearance is a nice thing about tooth-colored fillings, but there’s more. According to studies, the quartz and resin mixture used to make tooth-colored fillings does not swell as much as metal when it heats up. This is important because the friction that occurs when we chew causes heat. Because natural enamel around the composite filling expands similarly, the risk of future fracture is lower than it is with a metal filling.
Posted in: Tooth-Colored Fillings