Choosing something that looks good over something that's durable is a dilemma that consumers face every day: Should you buy the practical sedan with a high resale value or the flashy sports car that attracts the opposite sex?
When it comes to tooth filling material, most people know that amalgam, or silver, is a dentist's ol' faithful; in fact, dentists have used amalgam to fill cavities for over 150 years. And for good reason; dental amalgam is one of the most durable and long-lasting restorative materials used in dentistry.
But what amalgam offers in affordability and endurance, it lacks in aesthetics. Composite resin, on the other hand, is like the Cinderella of dental materials: younger and prettier than amalgam, and a viable threat to its favor.
Stronger Than Ever
Made of a tooth-colored plastic mixture filled with silicon dioxide (glass), composite resin was first introduced to dentistry in the 1960s. In their nascent stage, dental composites weren't strong enough to withstand the chewing pressure produced by back teeth, so were used only to restore front teeth.
Today's composites still look natural, but are tougher, more versatile and can be used to:
- Restore small- to mid-sized dental cavities
- Replace previously placed amalgam dental fillings
Direct Fillings: AKA “White” or “Porcelain” Fillings
Direct dental fillings are the most common type of restoration and are typically less expensive than indirect dental fillings (dental inlays and dental onlays). In addition to amalgam and temporary materials, composite resin is one of the leading materials used for direct dental fillings.
Primarily known to patients as "white dental fillings" or "porcelain dental fillings," composite fillings are perfect for anyone who prefers the tooth colored dental fillings. But don't be fooled -- composite resin fillings are more than just pretty!
Composite dental fillings can also:
- Make teeth less sensitive to hot and cold
- Require less removal of tooth structure than amalgam
- Bond to teeth and help prevent breakage
- Be easy to fix if damaged
However, although composite resin may be popular with patients, some dentists are still more comfortable using amalgam or other dental materials for larger restorations and on back teeth.
Composite Resin Bonding
If you have minor tooth imperfections such as a chipped tooth, broken tooth or a diastema, you may want to consider composite resin dental bonding. Unlike the veneers used on smile makeover television shows, composite dental bonding is an easy and cost-effective solution for restoring your smile.
A composite dental bonding procedure generally involves four steps: prepping the tooth, applying a bonding agent, applying the composite resin, and then using a special light to cure, or harden, the composite. The entire procedure is typically completed in just one visit.
Caring for Composite Restorations
Composite restorations may look great, but they aren't infallible. Like your natural teeth, composite resin is vulnerable to staining, chipping and, in some cases, breaking. The best way to keep your new restorations looking beautiful is to avoid drinking beverages that stain (coffee, wine and soda); avoid smoking cigarettes; avoid using your teeth as scissors; and practice good oral hygiene.
If your composite restorations need repair, it's important to see your dentist right away. By visiting your dentist early, you may qualify for a simple fix that doesn't strain your wallet; waiting too long may make a complex, expensive repair unavoidable. If you don't have a dentist, we can help you find one!