Posts Tagged ‘amalgam fillings’

Composite Fillings

What you should know about Composite Fillings

When it comes to fillings, you have to basic options: amalgam fillings or composite fillings. Amalgam fillings are made from a mixture of metals, and composite fillings are made from ceramic and plastic compounds. Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. 

What are amalgam fillings?

Amalgam fillings are what are commonly known as “silver fillings”. These filings are made out of a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. The mercury that binds the metals together makes up around 50% off the filling. This combination makes them strong and durable. The mercury, when combined with other metals, is a safe and stable compound. This kind of filling has a long track record and has been around since the late 19th century. However, unlike composite fillings, they are very noticeable and can discolor teeth as light cannot pass through the tooth naturally. Some people can be sensitive to the metals that are used in the amalgam.

What are composite fillings?

Composite fillings are a resin made from ceramic and plastic compounds. Because of this, they can be matched to the natural color of your tooth and the filings can blend into your smile. These are often known as “white fillings” or “tooth-colored fillings”.  These filings have the great advantage of being nearly invisible. They are also very easy to adhere to the tooth, as they bond to the surface of the tooth. Best of all, they preserve the maximum amount of tooth. Because the resin is easily shaped to match your teeth, this means that less drilling is required.  It is important to note that the procedure to get a composite filling may take a little longer than amalgam fillings. Additionally, because white fillings don’t contain mercury so there are no health risks associated with the use of white fillings. Some people even experience less post-treatment discomfort and sensitivity from composite fillings.

How long do composite fillings last?

Despite the immense advancements in dental technology over the past few years, fillings do have a finite period of use after which they start to fail. This means it is important to see a dentist as soon as the dental filling begins to fail.  Luckily, white composite fillings are good for seven to ten years in healthy patients. However, this data is based on older types of dental fillings and significant advancements in filling manufacturing have increased this number.  Newer studies have found that white composite fillings are beginning to reach the same amount of durability as amalgam fillings. They can potentially last for up to 12 years if taken care of properly.

Are white fillings strong?

While white composite fillings have a reputation of being weaker than amalgam fillings, new developments in the materials that are used have made them much stronger than in the past. This means that more people are choosing white fillings over amalgam fillings in order to preserve their natural smile.

How much does dental composite cost?

On average, the cost for a composite filling ranges between $300 to $600 per tooth, however, most dental plans cover the cost of the procedure and most of the cost of bonding. Insurance companies will often cover the filling when it is done for structural reasons or to fill a cavity.  Getting a dental composite often requires a single visit to the dentist. Sometimes this procedure is called dental bonding, as the resin is bonded to the tooth after being sculpted, shaped, hardened and polished. This kind of composite is ideal for small cosmetic dental work, or for smaller cavities.

What does dental bonding involve?

The procedure generally begins with a gentle phosphoric acid being applied to the tooth. This is painless and provides a surface for the composite to be bonded to. The putty-like resin is then placed on the tooth surface, shaped and sculpted.  Finally, a special light is used to harden the resin and set it. Then it is polished and buffed for a smooth finish. The entire process takes around 30 to 60 minutes per tooth. Anesthesia is often unnecessary unless the bonding is used to fill a decayed tooth. Compared to other forms of tooth repair, like crowns or veneers, composite fillings require the least amount of enamel to be removed. If you think dental composite fillings are for you, and you live in the Rancho Cucamonga, CA area, give Golden Smiles Dental a call for your consultation at  (909) 481-8990. Our expert team will be more than happy to answer your questions.

Why should I get a composite filling instead of an amalgam filling?

When you need to get a cavity filled, your doctor may present you with a number of options. It can be confusing and intimidating to have to choose between the two or more different types of fillings that can be used. In this article we will discuss two of the most common types of fillings, a composite filling and an amalgam filling.

What is the difference between the two?

An amalgam is a kind of filling material that has been used for more than 150 years. It is a mixture of metals: liquid mercury, and a powdered allow composted of silver, tin, and copper. The mercury is used to bind together the other metals to form the amalgam. About fifty percent of the amalgam is mercury by weight. A composite filling is a resin made from plastic and glass. The resin is tooth-colored and is used to help restore small to medium sized cavities or decay in teeth. The fillings are able to withstand the pressure and constant stress of chewing. They can be used on the front or back teeth, and, for people who prefer their fillings to look more natural, they are an excellent choice.

How are the fillings applied?

For the amalgam, the dentist will mix the powdered alloy with the liquid mercury to form the amalgam putty, after the tooth has been drilled to remove any decay. The softened putty is then placed and shaped in the cavity to where it rapidly hardens to form a filling. A composite filling is placed after drilling the decayed part of the tooth, then thoroughly cleaning the tooth, before finally drying the area to be filled. The composite is then placed in successive layers and hardened using a special light. The process continues in this way until the cavity is filled. Finally, the composite is polished to help prevent staining and early wear. The composite will then bond with the remaining structure of the tooth. This helps to prevent further breaking, and to also insulate the teeth from excessive temperature changes. Because composites preserve your natural smile, they have a clear advantage over amalgam fillings. The process can often be done in a single visit. Your dentist can even match the shade of your natural tooth by blending the composites. If the patient fears excessive staining, then a  clear plastic coating can be applied. Composites do tend to wear out sooner in large cavities, but they hold up just as well in small cavities. The amalgam does offer a strong and long-lasting filling that is less likely to break, and is also the least expensive type of filling material. But, it does carry with it some risks: The elemental mercury present in over 50% of the amalgam filling may release low levels of mercury vapor that can be inhaled. Mercury can accumulate in the body, causing damage to the brain and kidneys. According to the FDA website: “High levels of mercury vapor exposure are associated with adverse effects in the brain and the kidneys”. Dental amalgam fillings are generally considered safe for adults and children older than 6, as the amount of mercury vapor accumulated is not enough to damage vital organs. There are some disadvantages to composite fillings. They tend to cost more and may not be covered by all insurances, so be sure to check with your provider. However, as composites improve, more insurance companies may  increase their coverage of composites.

What makes composite fillings a better choice

Your smile is your signature, and many people want to preserve the signature they were born with, or have spent hundreds of dollars on perfecting. Don’t let a single cavity undo all that work! Composite fillings offer two big advantages over amalgam fillings: you get to retain your natural smile, and they do not contain any elemental mercury. Composite fillings are a fantastic choice for keeping your smile looking natural and healthy. While the mercury present in amalgam fillings might not be harmful, you may still be allergic to any of the other metals present in the filling. Also, the effects of the mercury vapor on fetus development and children breastfeeding has not been adequately researched for there to be enough data to make an informed recommendation.

The secret best option

Even those of us who keep up with their regular oral hygiene routine may develop a cavity. That is why it is important to maintain a regular oral health routine to help ensure your teeth remain strong and healthy throughout your lifetime. Here are some of the best practices to maintain your oral health:
  • Brush twice a day, or more if eating sweet or sticky foods.
  • Brush with short, even strokes, being sure to reach every tooth surface. Don’t push hard when brushing, your teeth don’t need to be handled roughly.
  • Use a fluoridated toothpaste to help rebuild your tooth enamel. Check the label before purchasing a toothpaste to make sure that it is fluoridated. Fluoride helps rebuild the enamel of your teeth, repairing small cracks and decay!
  • Floss at least once a day to help remove plaque build up from between the teeth.
  • Avoid damaging foods, like sugary drinks, or hard candy.
  • Avoid habits that help destroy your teeth, like smoking.
  • Visit the dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups at least once every six months.
Follow these simple rules and you can be sure to preserve your smile for your entire life. Always be sure to consult your dentist when you are unsure about what steps to take to improve your oral health. Even if you have not taken care of your oral health in the past, each day you do adds up overtime. Oral health is a long-term project. When considering what type of filling to get from your dentist, consider the information presented in this article and talk with your dentist. They may have a recommendation that can make the decision making process easier.