A Closer Look at Composite Fillings
Created on April 15, 2018
One of the primary objectives of dentistry is to prevent oral disease of any kind. Routine exams and cleanings are intended to closely monitor the condition of teeth and gums so any changes can be addressed quickly. When decay is noticed, one of the common methods of restoring structure and function to the damaged tooth is with a filling. Since there are options for different types of dental fillings, it is important to know their characteristics before the time comes that you need one.
How Fillings have Evolved
Most adults have at least one silver filling in their mouth. The reason for the prevalence of silver fillings is that this type of restoration, also known as an amalgam, was the option for several decades. Well, maybe we shouldn’t say that; gold dental fillings were the first to be developed, but they were costly. So, in 1830, dentists in the U.S. began using amalgam as an affordable alternative. Great for the wallet, but maybe not so great for teeth.
A “silver filling” is not exactly what it seems. Initially, the silver, tin, copper, and elemental mercury that are in this restoration so appear silver. Over time, though, the metal oxidizes, and the filling darkens – a lot. This is the least of our concerns, though. What is questionable about an amalgam is its fit. Metal cannot stick to enamel, so it needs to be retained physically. To achieve this, it is necessary to alter the structure of the tooth beyond the simple removal of decay. Furthermore, once the metal filling is in the tooth, it will swell when metal becomes hot (which happens when you chew). What expands must contract, and amalgam does just that. Over time, this process diminishes the tightness of the margins around the filling.
Benefits of Tooth-Colored Fillings
One of the primary reasons that many people seek tooth-colored fillings is because they like the idea of a filling disappearing into their teeth. When we use composite to restore tooth structure, though, we get a lot more than natural appeal. The composite material can adhere to enamel through a bonding process. The attachment between filling and tooth, then, is tighter. This means less chance of bacteria causing further decay beneath the filling. The fit of a composite filling is also more stable because this material does not swell nearly as much as metal when it heats up.
Composite fillings offer long-term rewards with minimal disruption to the tooth. To learn more, call our Springfield office at (413) 781-7645.