Tooth Colored Restorations
In the past, amalgam or silver filling was the most common material used to restore decayed teeth. A silver filling is pretty easy to spot because it’s not really silver at all. As the filling ages, it corrodes. The corrosion by-products leach out into the remaining tooth structure, making your filling black and your tooth dark gray. Doesn’t sound very pretty, does it? Well, dentistry has made some nice improvements along the way.
New advances in dentistry have really paved the way for new materials. Adhesive dentistry, also known as bonding, has made it possible to bond or glue your restoration directly to your tooth. This is done with resin or composite, which is a tooth colored material. This material can bring back strength to your tooth, which is something that a silver filling cannot do. Resins come in all kinds of colors, so they can be custom matched to fit any tooth color, no matter how unusual that color may be. As a result, a composite resin restoration can be virtually invisible!
There are two BIG reasons that silver fillings are no longer the restoration of choice. The first is that healthy tooth structure must be removed just so the silver filling will stay in place. Not so with resins–just the decayed portion is removed because the bond anchors the resin in place. So composite resins tend to be much more conservative than silver fillings. The second reason has to do with expansion and contraction. Everything expands and contracts when it is either heated up or cooled down. Take for instance, a jar that you can’t get open. You put the metal lid under hot water, the metal expands, and the jar suddenly opens. That’s expansion! Now, contraction is just the opposite. We’ve all probably experienced sharp pain from ice cream on our teeth–that’s contraction! Well, a big silver filling expands and contracts alot, much more than your remaining tooth does. This sets up fractures in the remaining tooth structure, which may cause the tooth to break later. Composite resins also expand and contract; they just do so more like a natural tooth. While amalgam has served dentistry well, it’s now time to put it aside and let composite take its’ place.