A dental filling is a restorative procedure where an artificial material is used 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 Composites (Tooth Colored or White Fillings)
Today, most circumstances requiring a dental filling call for the use of Dental Composite. White fillings have several major advantages over silver fillings. Proper placement of a composite filling entails the use of a sophisticated protocol which creates a micro-mechanical bond between the tooth and the filling material. For this reason, composite restorations are often referred to as “bonded” restorations and, when properly done, result in a tooth significantly stronger than if restored with dental amalgam. Also, because the filling is “bonded”, there frequently can be substantially less tooth reduction (i.e. drilling) than is necessary for the placement of amalgam. In fact, composite restorations sometimes can be accomplished without the need for anesthesia.
As a result of advancements in restorative materials and techniques, dentists now are able to treat very small cavities before they have a chance to do more major damage to tooth structure. This is why Dr. Hunting will frequently use a Diagnostic Laser during your examination. Older techniques for detection of cavities such as exploration with a sharp probe and dental x-rays remain invaluable, but frequently the Diagnostic Laser will detect small cavities which can be missed with these tools. Smaller restorations mean stronger teeth and longer lasting restorations.
Dental Composites are available in a wide variety of shades and translucencies to match almost any tooth. In applications involving anterior teeth, colors are frequently blended or layered to mimic the appearance of the natural tooth. This is a situation demanding of the artistic ability of the dentist, and an area where Dr. Hunting’s meticulous approach consistently produces beautiful results!
Dental Amalgam (Silver Fillings)
Dental Amalgam is a filling material that has been used for over 150 years. It is a mixture of mercury with at least one other metal. In the past, amalgam was the most commonly used restorative material and had several advantages such as low cost, strength, durability, and bacteriostatic effects. Although amalgam still has its place, advances in materials science and our understanding of technique for placement of composite restorative materials have greatly reduced its use in modern dentistry.
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 fillings are not as technique sensitive as other restorative options, and are frequently used in instances where moisture control is a problem. On average, most amalgam restorations serve for 10 to 12 years.
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.