If a tooth develops decay (caries or cavities), the damaged material must be removed when it reaches a certain size to stop the spread of the decay. The tooth is then repaired with a dental restoration. This restores the tooth to its original function. There are many different types of restorations. We will discuss them with you and help you decide which is restoration matches your personalized plan best, both aesthetically and in terms of cost. Types of restorations include
- Tooth-colored Restorations– The majority of our patients prefer composite restorations or those made of glass isomer materials, because they are the same color as their natural teeth. There are many other benefits beyond the looks, although that is certainly an important feature of these restorations. Composite fillings are made of a composite resin and directly bonded to the teeth. Composite and glass isomer fillings are usually considered the standard today, because the materials used are bonded to the teeth, are made of insulating materials, and are tooth colored.
- Porcelain Restorations– These fillings are tooth colored and have increased durability as compared to composite materials. They match the color of natural teeth and are extremely strong which make them a great restoration for back teeth.
- Metal Restorations– Dental amalgam fillings were at one time in dentistry, the most commonly used, and the least expensive. Amalgam fillings (a combination of silver, copper, mercury, tin, and possibly other metals) harden quickly and last a long time. Because of their silver color, this type of filling was often used for back teeth, and usually required only a single dental visit. Cast gold fillings are more durable and long-lasting than amalgam fillings, but must be created by a dental lab, and thus required more than one visit. Neither of these restorations are in regular use today, although we still do gold inlays and onlays for patients who request them.
What can you expect if you need a filling?
When you need a filling, your dentist will first numb the tooth, and then carefully remove the decayed area, using drills or special tools such as micro air abrasion or dental lasers. If the resulting cavity is close to a nerve, the dentist may insert a special liner to protect it. Then a special material is used to roughen up the tooth’s dentin to make sure it bonds properly to the filling.
If you are getting an amalgam filling, a bonding resin is inserted into the cavity, and then the filling is inserted into the tooth under pressure, to make sure of a proper fit. If you are getting a composite resin filling, the material is applied in layers and built up gradually; a bright light may be used to harden each layer before the next is applied.
Once the filling is in place, your dentist uses a special abrasive paper to smooth the filling to make sure it is at the right height to preserve a proper bite. The procedure is generally finished by polishing the tooth, to restore its original brilliance.