Tooth-Colored or Composite Fillings
In the past, dental cavities were filled with a mixture of metal alloys, also known as amalgam. Today, tooth-colored or composite fillings are a mixture of resin, glass or quartz and porcelain ceramics. These materials are resilient and long-lasting. These filings are colored to match the patient’s teeth and are practically invisible to the untrained eye. For aesthetic and/or medical purposes, these tooth-colored fillings can be used to replace old and worn dental amalgam, gold or other metal fillings.
While composite fillings have visual advantages, over time they can become discolored. Just like metal fillings, tooth-colored fillings can be set and cured in one visit to the dentist.
What Are Tooth-Colored Fillings?
Many patients today are interested in dental restorations that do not disrupt the natural appearance of their smile. Whether a filling is needed toward the front of the mouth or at the back, a metal restoration looks unnatural. Tooth-colored fillings have become a popular option for patients of all ages. These fillings restore structure to damaged teeth and also preserve the appearance of the smile.
Tooth-colored fillings are free of metal and mercury. They are made from particles of silicon dioxide, plastics, quartz, and glass. Each restoration is color-matched as closely as possible to the natural shade of enamel, making them disappear in the mouth. To place a composite filling, the dentist needs to remove only a minimal amount of enamel; just what has been damaged by decay. The filling is bonded to the tooth, which pulls the outer edges of the tooth inward for restored strength.
Am I a Candidate for Tooth-Colored Fillings?
Most people are excellent candidates for tooth-colored fillings. Many patients consider replacing old amalgam fillings with composite or ceramic porcelain restorations. However, the general consensus regarding this practice is “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” If an amalgam filling has strong margins and structural integrity, there is minimal reason to remove it in favor of a tooth-colored filling. A dental examination is conducted to determine the extent of damage a tooth has sustained. More severe damage may require an inlay or dental crown, while moderate decay may be fully reparable using a more conservative filling restoration.
Are there Different Types of Tooth-Colored Fillings?
Tooth-colored fillings, inlays, and onlays are commonly fabricated from composite resin, which is a mixture of powdered glass and silica materials. Alternatively, a tooth-colored filling may be made from dental porcelain. The two are similar in appearance and resilience. Composite fillings can be placed in a single visit and achieve very good results. Porcelain fillings may last slightly longer than the average composite filling, but costs more and may require more than one visit.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Tooth-Colored Fillings?
There are certainly more advantages to tooth-colored fillings than disadvantages. Patients appreciate the natural aesthetic we can achieve with composite dental materials and the way that a tooth-colored filling feels in the mouth. Additionally, patients often choose tooth-colored fillings because they wish to avoid the potential risks associated with amalgam restorations. Conversely, tooth-colored fillings do come at a slightly higher cost than metal fillings. The average lifespan of a composite filling is 7 to 10 years. While it is possible for a composite filling to become stained over time, the materials used for these restorations do not whiten. Therefore, depending on the location of the filling, a patient may wish to undergo cosmetic teeth whitening before the final restoration is placed.
Are Tooth-Colored Fillings Safe?
Tooth-colored fillings are made from materials that mimic the structure and behavior of natural enamel. They are safe, durable, and long-lasting because the material is bonded to the tooth, creating strong margins that keep bacteria from penetrating deeper layers of enamel. Tooth-colored also respond to temperature changes in the same way enamel does, whereas metal fillings contract and expand more severely than enamel. This characteristic is associated with both durability and long-term integrity that significantly minimizes the risk of fractures in the tooth or filling.
Will Insurance Cover Tooth-Colored Fillings?
Dental insurance typically provides some degree of coverage for restorative care such as dental filling placement or replacement. This includes tooth-colored fillings. Patients should contact their insurance company for detailed information regarding coverage based on their plan.