In years past, cavities that developed in your teeth need to be filled with a special metal amalgam material. Unfortunately, this left shiny and dark patches on the teeth that looked very unnatural when patients opened their mouth. Today, modern dentistry advancements now allow a number of natural tooth colored and metal-free filling options. Both porcelains and dental composite resin provide patients with safe and affordable tooth colored filling options that blend in with the natural teeth.
Anatomy of a tooth
Your teeth are made up of several parts. The outer area is known as the tooth enamel, which is one of the hardest materials naturally produced in the body. This enamel is made of closely knit calcium crystals and does not contain living tissue. Dental porcelains can be used when this area of the tooth needs to be replaced.
The inside of your tooth is known as the dentin. Dentine is more porous than your tooth enamel and bears a strong resemblance to the bone. It consists of microscopic tubes of collagen mixed with deposits of calcium crystal. This area of the tooth can be very sensitive, as it is living tissue. When this portion of your tooth requires a filling, a silica filler and plastic resin dental composite mimic the dentin well.
Advantages of tooth-colored fillings
Both porcelain and dental composite fillings offer a distinct advantage over the older metal amalgam fillings. Not only do they look more natural, but they can also bond more effectively with the tooth. Metal amalgam fillings simply fit into the cavity and rest there, flush with the tooth’s surface. This leaves them more vulnerable to becoming loosened or damaged, and they may even fall out. Today’s new methods of dental bonding combined with more advanced filling materials allow Dr. Mabry to better protect the teeth that have developed a cavity.
The older metal amalgam materials were used to reinforce your teeth, however, dentists now understand that using these materials may promote further tooth decay. Because they easily become loose, this leaves your tooth open to further damage. Today, dentists learn from nature and attempt to use tooth-colored filling materials that more closely mimic the natural function, form, and appearance of your teeth. In effect, these tooth-colored fillings recreate the portion of your tooth that has been lost, instead of simply replacing it.
Types of fillings
Fillings are no longer used to simply patch a cavity in your tooth. Today, several different filling procedures may be used depending on the size of the cavity and the extent of the tooth decay that is present.
- Dentin Build-Up – in this procedure, a dental composite is applied in layers to fill a smaller cavity. This serves to recreate the natural shape of your tooth. Unlike metal amalgam fillings, this will not require any of the remaining healthy teeth to be removed for this process.
- Direct Fillings – this involves placing dental composite material into the cavity to protect the tooth from any further decay or damage. This will be molded into a natural shape and then hardened using an ultraviolet curing light. This filling process only requires a single appointment and can usually be completed in under an hour.
- Semi-Direct Fillings – these are used with larger cavities. Much like direct fillings, the composite material is layered into the cavity first. However, the restoration will then be removed and hardened while outside the mouth. It will then be bonded to the tooth. These fillings are often created using the same computer technology that is used to create porcelain dental restorations.
- Indirect Fillings – when a cavity is very large or complex, this type of filling will be used. In most cases, these porcelain inlays/onlays will be used where there is not enough healthy tooth left to properly bond a filling and will recreate the majority of the visible tooth. This will require more than one appointment, as the restoration will need to be created in a dental laboratory.
Even when a cavity doesn’t hurt, it is important to have it treated as soon as possible. These areas of tooth decay put your remaining teeth at risk, as they provide a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Eventually, the tooth will become infected, and you may develop an abscess. The infection can also spread to other teeth, as well as into your gums and the jaw bone. Treating a cavity while it is still small allows you to avoid more costly and extensive dental treatments in the future.
If you suspect that you may have developed a cavity, or if you have questions about the other restorative procedures our office offers, contact us today and schedule a consultation. We will be happy to answer any questions that you may have, and we look forward to restoring your teeth to a more natural appearance.