A dental restoration or dental filling is a dental restorative material used artificially to restore the function, integrity and morphology of missing tooth structure. The structural loss typically results from caries or external trauma. Dental restorations may be fabricated out of a variety of materials:
Dental Amalgam (Silver)
Dental Amalgam is a commonly used dental filling that has been used for over 150 years. It is a mixture of mercury with at least one other metal. Amalgam has many advantages over other restorative material, such as low cost, strength, durability, and bacteriostatic effects.
Amalgam is used in dentistry for a number of reasons. It is relatively easy to use and manipulate during placement; it remains soft for a short time so it can be packed to fill any irregular volume, and then forms a hard compound. Amalgam possesses greater longevity than other direct restorative materials, such as composite. On average, most amalgam restorations serve for 10 to 12 years, whereas resin-based composites serve for about half that time. However, with recent improvements in composite material science and a better understanding of the technique-sensitivity of placement, it should be noted that this difference is decreasing.
There are circumstances in which composite (tooth color fillings) serves better than amalgam; when amalgam is not indicated, or when a more conservative preparation would be beneficial, composite is the recommended restorative material. These situations would include small occlusal restorations, in which amalgam would require the removal of a sounder tooth structure, as well as in “enamel sites beyond the height of contour”.
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.
Dental Composites (Tooth Colored)
Dental composites are also called tooth color fillings. Crowns and in-lays can also be made in the laboratory from dental composites. These materials are similar to those used in direct fillings and are tooth colored. Their strength and durability is not as high as porcelain or metal restorations and they are more prone to wear and discoloration. Many people still have silver/mercury fillings in their mouths from years past. These are not particularly pleasing to the eye, and we know that by unavoidable design, silver/mercury fillings ultimately result in a weaker tooth structure. Porcelain inlays and tooth-colored restorations (onlays) are not only beautiful (or unnoticeable), but also add strength to weakened teeth. These restorations are aesthetically pleasing and very strong thanks to new bonding technologies.
Advantages of Composite (Tooth Colored) Resoration
There are many advantages to tooth-colored restorations. Resin onlays are bonded to the teeth creating a tight, superior fit to the natural tooth. Such restorations can be used in instances where much of the tooth structure has been lost. The tooth remains intact and stronger.
Since the resin used in tooth-colored restorations contain fluoride this can help prevent decay. The resin wears like natural teeth and does not require placement at the gum line, which is healthier for your gums! The result is a beautiful smile!