When a tooth becomes infected by bacteria, a cavity develops. The infection initially begins at the enamel surface and may spread to the dentin. Depending on the size of the decay or cavity, it may present some discomfort and pain to the patient, so it will have to receive proper treatment. A tooth infected with caries will have to be cleaned and then sealed with a restorative material. In the past, the use of silver amalgam was very popular, but not anymore today. Most dental restorations are given tooth colored fillings because of many reasons:
- It is more aesthetically pleasing. Silver amalgam fillings are very noticeable in the mouth. It often appears black, from inside the mouth and it is not exactly very aesthetic, but a tooth-colored filling is going to give the patient a very good restoration. It can be matched to the natural color of the tooth, so it is not noticeable at all.
- It is not heat sensitive. The metal components of silver amalgams make the tooth sensitive to heat when they are used on the patient. This can be quite uncomfortable, so its use has been discouraged, hence the increasing popularity of tooth-colored fillings which are “plastic” in nature so not heat-sensitive, at all.
- It does not stain tooth and gums. The silver amalgam filling is of considerable strength but it corrodes. When this happens, it stains tooth and the gums, black, so even when they are removed and replaced with another filling material, the blackish tinge of the amalgam stain is still very visible on the tooth and sometimes, even the gums around the area of the tooth.
- It does is not cause mercury poisoning. Silver amalgam fillings contain a percentage of mercury. While there is no certainty, the use of silver amalgam is discouraged because of the risk of mercury poisoning. Before the amalgam is carried into the mouth and packed into the tooth, it is condensed to remove as much mercury from the amalgam. Unfortunately, one cannot be sure that all of the harmful mercury is removed before the filling is put on the patient’s teeth, so avoid its use is the best protection that can be given to patients.
- It can be placed on the anterior teeth. Related to the first item, since the tooth-colored filling material comes in various shades, they can be specifically matched to the natural color of the tooth so they can used for restoration on the facial surface of the front teeth.
- It does not require long waiting time. When a silver amalgam is used as a tooth filling material, the patient will be asked to refrain from eating for about 30 minutes to an hour, to allow the material to set. With an indirect inlay and onlay, fabrication time will have to be allotted because the fillings are constructed on a cast in the laboratory. A tooth-colored filling is performed directly on the patient’s mouth and it is cured by and LED light so it hardens immediately. This means that it can already be used to eat, right after it is applied. No long wait is required.
In terms of strength, a tooth-colored filling may never be able to compete with silver amalgam or metal fillings. Tooth-colored fillings are made of composite resin, and they are not as strong. They wear away easily, depending on use, so it may have to be replaced after some time. It may also stain and discolour from food, drinks and cigarettes, so polishing and total replacement may be indicated.
Given all the things mentioned, you can now weigh your options. Are you willing to compromise all the benefits that tooth-colored fillings offer for strength and longevity? Tooth-colored fillings have long surpassed the use of metal fillings. They are healthier and more aesthetically appealing; giving patients a perfect reconstruction.