Tooth colored “composite” fillings do the same job as amalgam fillings. They are used to fill cavities in order to prevent further decay and restore proper shape and function to the tooth.
Instead of metal alloys, however, composite fillings are typically made of porcelain or microscopic glass in an acrylic base. During the procedure, the decay is removed and the area is cleaned. The tooth must then be kept free of saliva as we apply an adhesive and then layers of the composite material. Once the cavity is filled, we use a special light to cure, or harden, the material into place. This procedure takes a little longer than amalgam restorations because the technique has more steps to do them well.
When you are done, however, you have a natural-looking tooth instead of a metallic filling, which can help improve confidence in your smile. This is of particular importance when you have a cavity near the front of your mouth, where an amalgam filling would be much more noticeable.
Many people love the aesthetic value of composite, or tooth-colored fillings but have concerns. Typically, they worry about two things: that composite fillings will not be strong or durable enough for their back teeth and that tooth-colored fillings will cost more to place.
First, it is true that amalgam fillings have traditionally been stronger than composite in terms of their ability to withstand chewing and biting pressure. Many dentists continue to use amalgam on back molars for this reason. However, as the science of dentistry advances, new and better materials and techniques have resulted in techniques and materials to justify their use in the back teeth.
Dr. Sean Nelson exclusively provides tooth colored fillings and restorations using composite material.
Composite restorations provide a natural looking way to preserve and maintain the strength of your teeth. Using a proactive rather than reactive approach to amalgam replacement is a choice many patients are happy to have. Many people decide to replace their older silver amalgam fillings with newer white “tooth-colored” composite fillings. There are a number of cons associated with “Silver” (amalgam) fillings.
Safety and Appearance: In addition to having a more pleasing and natural tooth-like appearance, composite fillings have the distinct advantage of not containing mercury or other metals that may contribute to sensitivity or toxicity. Mercury toxicity from amalgam fillings is a controversial subject, though no research to date has been able to show any risks of having mercury as a component of amalgam dental fillings. However, many patients do have metal sensitivities and some have reported a metal taste after the placement of amalgam fillings.
Durability: Composite fillings previously were not as durable as amalgams. However, dental manufacturers have made great strides in improving the strength of composite resin materials, to the effect that composite fillings now have the potential to be used for all teeth, including molars. Furthermore, composite materials often require less tooth preparation and may not weaken the affected tooth as much as amalgam fillings, which often require more extensive tooth preparation.
Tooth Shaping: Composite and amalgam fillings require preparation of the affected tooth, but less preparation is usually required for a composite filling.