There's More To Tooth-Colored Fillings Than Meets The EyeThere's More To Tooth-Colored Fillings Than Meets The Eye

If a tooth that shows when you smile develops a cavity, a tooth-colored filling will blend in with your tooth and be aesthetically pleasing. Because they come in a variety of colors and shades, a tooth-colored filling can be matched exactly to the color of your teeth and once in place, they are virtually undetectable. And while these are often the reasons that most patients will request a tooth-colored filling, there are a lot more reasons that dentists will use them.

To begin with, tooth-colored fillings are made of "a complex composite of plastic and zirconia/silica." These composite materials will actually integrate with the tooth and strengthen it instead of having a weakening effect like other filling materials can have. In fact, tooth-colored fillings are 90-95 percent as strong as a healthy tooth whereas a silver filling is only 40-45 percent as strong as a healthy tooth.

And the composite materials that create a tooth-colored filling will actually bond better to the tooth than metal counterparts, which means that less of the tooth that is being filled needs to be removed in preparation for the filling. Because the material bonds well to a tooth, it can also be used to repair chipped teeth or to build up the edges of teeth that are worn down. Tooth-colored fillings can also be used to fix smaller cavities, which means that a cavity doesn't have to get 'big enough to fill.'

The actual procedure for a tooth-colored filling may take a while longer because saliva has to be kept away from the prepared area on which an adhesive is placed. Then the composite filling is applied in several thin layers before it is chemically cured or hardened with a special light.

There are several benefits to using a tooth-colored filling beyond the obvious fact that it integrates with the color of the tooth, giving the appearance of a solid, healthy tooth, and those benefits are:

• The process can be completed in a single visit.
• Because it bonds well to the natural tooth, there are typically no filling leaks.
• There is less chance of a tooth cracking because the composite material actually integrates with and strengthens the tooth.

Some patients experience sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures for a few days after the filling has been placed, but this sensitivity typically dissipates after that. Because tooth-colored fillings are more durable than silver/amalgam fillings, they generally last for many years before they need to be replaced and they feel just like your natural teeth--smooth and comfortable.

In cases where a tooth is badly worn or where the decay is extensive, your dentist may recommend using a tooth-colored inlay or onlay which will restore your tooth to health and still look and feel natural. Because inlays and onlays are created in a dental lab, the process cannot be completed in one visit like a regular tooth-colored filling application.

Not only are tooth-colored fillings aesthetically pleasing, they offer additional strength and durability beyond what metal fillings can provide.
by Dr. Susan Wells
References and Bibliography
Susan Wells DMD has been practicing dentistry in Warrior, Alabama since 1978. She treats patients for all aspects of general dentistry including preventive dental care oral hygiene instruction and full scale exams and cleanings. To find out more visit her site at
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