The Problem With Silver Fillings
Silver (amalgam) fillings are made of a mixture of metals which can include silver, zinc, tin, copper, and mercury. Silver fillings are known for being strong and long-lasting, and they’ve been part of dentistry for hundreds of years. However, in that time, dentists and patients alike have noticed some distinct problems with silver fillings that have led to them falling largely out of favor. Some of those issues include:
- Unnatural Appearance – Silver fillings easily stand out from your existing teeth.
- Staining – The silver in amalgam fillings can leak into the tooth, darkening it over time.
- Galvanic Shock – If silver fillings interact with other metal fillings and metal dental prosthetics of differing compositions, this can generate an electric charge that can shock the inside of your mouth.
- Toxicity – Silver fillings may contain mercury, lead, and other materials that can cause toxic or allergic reactions.
- Takes Hours to Set – Silver fillings often take a full 24 hours to completely harden and reach full strength after they’re applied to your tooth.
- Enamel Destruction – Silver fillings require a significant amount of your tooth’s enamel to be removed to make room for them, which compromises the tooth’s structural integrity.
- Increased Sensitivity – Silver fillings expand and contract upon contact with hot and cold temperatures, increasing dental sensitivity and putting pressure on the inside of your tooth, thus weakening it further.
What Are Tooth-Colored Fillings?
Tooth-colored fillings, also called composite fillings, mercury-free fillings, and white fillings, are fillings made from non-metallic materials. Tooth-colored fillings are usually made from a mix of high-quality resin, porcelain, and ground quartz. Just like silver and gold fillings, tooth-colored fillings are used to repair cracks, holes, and other forms of tooth decay in existing teeth. However, the composite resin material in these dental restorations has made them an increasingly popular option.
Benefits of Tooth-Colored Fillings
Tooth-colored fillings offer several advantages over traditional metal fillings, making them a popular choice for patients seeking both functionality and aesthetics of both back and front teeth. Here’s a closer look at the key benefits of composite fillings:
- Natural-Looking Smile: Unlike silver or gold fillings that stand out, composite fillings are made from composite resin precisely matched to the shade of your natural teeth. This ensures a seamless and inconspicuous restoration, enhancing your smile’s appearance.
- Preserve Tooth Structure: Traditional fillings often require removing healthy tooth enamel to create space for the filling material. Composite fillings, however, bond directly to the surrounding tooth structure, minimizing the need for enamel removal. This helps preserve the strength and integrity of your tooth.
- Reduced Risk of Cracks and Fractures: Metal fillings can expand and contract at different rates than teeth due to temperature changes. This can put stress on the tooth and increase the risk of cracks and fractures. Tooth-colored fillings, on the other hand, exhibit similar expansion and contraction patterns as teeth, reducing this risk.
- Metal-Free Restoration: Some people may prefer to avoid metal in their bodies due to potential concerns like allergies or sensitivities. Composite fillings are completely metal-free, addressing these concerns and offering a biocompatible alternative.
- Quick and Efficient Placement: The composite resin used in tooth-colored fillings bonds to the natural tooth structure quickly under a light source, allowing for a faster and more efficient filling procedure compared to traditional methods.
- Long-lasting Durability: With proper care and oral hygiene, tooth-colored fillings can last for several years, comparable to the lifespan of traditional fillings.
- Versatility in Applications: Composite fillings are not only suitable for treating cavities but can also be used for repairing chipped or cracked teeth, addressing cosmetic concerns, and even closing gaps between teeth.
The Tooth-Colored Filling Process
Before Dr. Nishime approves you for treatment with composite fillings, you’ll attend an initial consultation. Your Honolulu dentist will determine if tooth-colored fillings are right for you by thoroughly examining your mouth, reviewing your medical history, and discussing your smile goals with you. At this time, he’ll also inform you of your other treatment options and offer sedation dentistry as part of your procedure if you experience dental anxiety.
Once you and Dr. Nishime have both decided a tooth-colored filling is right for you, we’ll clean your mouth and apply a local anesthetic to the soft tissues around the affected tooth. The anesthetic will help ensure you don’t feel any pain during the procedure. We can also apply your sedative of choice and ensure your sedative is working alongside your anesthetic. Once we’re sure you’re comfortable, Dr. Nishime will remove any damaged or decayed tooth material to make room for the filling.
Applying Your Tooth-Colored Fillings
To install your composite fillings, your dentist will apply the resin in layers, hardening each layer as he goes with a handheld blue light. In some cases, Dr. Nishime may recommend applying a dental crown to the tooth afterward, to further protect and reinforce it. Once your Honolulu, HI dentist is finished, you’ll be free to enjoy your beautifully restored smile.
Caring For Your Tooth-Colored Fillings
The best way to get the most out of your composite fillings is to care for them as best as you can. Some of the best tips you can follow to care for your tooth-colored fillings include:
- Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily to remove plaque and debris between teeth and around fillings. Consider using an antimicrobial mouthwash as recommended.
- Limit Sugary and Acidic Foods and Drinks: Acidic foods and drinks can contribute to tooth decay and staining of a dental filling.
- Avoid Hard and Chewy Foods: Hard and chewy foods can put stress on your white dental filling and increase the risk of chipping or dislodging.
- Be Gentle With Your Teeth: Avoid using your teeth as tools for opening packages, biting fingernails, or cracking nuts. You should also avoid chewing on hard objects like ice or candy to keep your composite filling in good shape.
- Schedule Regular Dental Checkups and Cleanings: Visit Dr. Nishime every six months for professional cleanings and examinations. This allows early detection of any potential problems with your fillings.
- Inform Your Dentist About Any Changes: If you experience any chipping, sensitivity, or discomfort around your composite resin fillings, contact Advanced Restorative Dentistry promptly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether tooth-colored fillings are covered by insurance depends on your specific plan, the reason for the filling, and your annual coverage limits. While most plans offer some coverage for medically necessary fillings, they might not fully cover the cost of composite fillings compared to traditional options.
Contact your dental insurance provider or check your policy documents for details. Discuss your options with your dentist to understand the costs and potential coverage for your specific case.
Tooth-colored fillings can last 10 to 15 years before they need to be replaced. The longevity of your fillings will depend on you maintaining regular oral hygiene and keeping up with your bi-annual dental exams with your dentist.
Getting tooth-colored fillings shouldn’t be painful thanks to local anesthesia, but temporary sensitivity to hot/cold, discomfort when biting, or general soreness are normal and manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers. If pain is severe, persistent, or worsens, contact your dentist immediately. Discuss any concerns beforehand for a personalized experience.
If you’re filling chips or breaks, contact your dentist immediately. They can assess the damage and determine the best course of action, which might involve repairing or replacing the filling. Early intervention is key to preventing further complications.
Enjoy A Beautiful & Healthy Smile With Tooth-Colored Fillings
Thanks to non-metallic dental fillings your dentist can repair and protect your natural teeth without the drawbacks of metal. If you’re interested in enjoying the many benefits of white dental fillings or want to switch out your metal fillings for a tooth-colored option, call Advanced Restorative Dentistry by dialing (808) 732-0291.
You can also fill out one of our contact forms, or click the button below, and a friendly team member will return your message as soon as they can. Dr. Nishime proudly offers his services to his Honolulu patients, as well as patients from neighboring areas such as Kailua, O‘ahu, and Kapolei.