What Are Tooth Colored Fillings?
The need for dental restoration remains, with 92% of adults having a cavity in at least one of their teeth. Unfortunately, this can only mean one thing; a lot of fillings. Luckily, having a filling no longer has to impact your smile. Thanks to progressive advances, you can have tooth restoration that is completely indistinguishable from your natural teeth.
What Are Tooth-Colored Fillings?
When your dentist talks about tooth-colored fillings, they refer to composite resin fillings. As you may have surmised, they are called composites because they are made from a composite of silica and glass. This combination is a perfect mimic of your tooth’s natural shiny translucency. Before applying, your dentist will mix coloring agents with the composite material to create the perfect color match for your teeth. This ensures your filling will blend flawlessly with the rest of your tooth to the naked eye. For some, this could mean the return of their smile.
How Are Tooth-Colored Fillings and Restorations Different From Regular Ones?
In the past, dentists wholly relied on a series of precious metals to rebuild the structure of your tooth. Dentists call these fillings amalgams because they rely on an amalgamation of metals for resiliency and strength. These metals usually include silver, copper, tin, and mercury. This makes them strong and durable, but over time these metals oxidize, causing them to turn black. In turn, if any of the restoration is at or near the gumline, that too will be tinged black. This results in the darkening and dulling of your overall smile.
Also, some people may be concerned about health risks from the mercury in an amalgam filling. However, the American Dental Association (ADA) states that the amount of mercury present in these fillings is too small to pose any risk. On the other hand, composites are custom-colored to match your teeth so that your smile stays bright and luminescent. This is one of the main benefits of tooth-colored fillings and restorations. However, just as you can stain your natural teeth with tobacco, coffee, and tea, so too can you stain your composite fillings. But, unlike a natural tooth, these can’t be whitened.
Differences in Preparation
Another fundamental difference between composite and amalgam fillings is how the tooth is prepped. With both, your dentist will numb the area before removing your tooth’s decayed parts. But, with amalgams, the metal has difficulty fusing with your tooth. To work around this, your dentist will make indentations around it that will give the metal something to “grip.” Unfortunately, this results in a bit of healthy tooth structure being removed along with the decay. Some believe that this eventually causes cracking or breakage. In contrast, the materials in a composite filling allow it to bind securely to your tooth. This allows your dentist to be more conservative in their preparation, thus preserving more of your tooth.
Are Tooth-Colored Fillings More Expensive?
Your dentist will spend a lot of time performing tooth-colored restorations, with more time spent depending on how large an area needs to be prepared. Due to this, these fillings are slightly more expensive than a regular filling. On average, this amounts to about $50 extra per tooth. The price for a tooth-colored filling also varies based on the size of the filling and its location. Dentists measure the size of all fillings in sides; your cavity can have one side all the way up to four. It helps to imagine your tooth as a 3-dimensional cube to understand this.
Also, dental fillings on back teeth will cost more than front teeth due to their difficult location. So, as an example, a one-sided filling on a front tooth will be less expensive than a four-sided filling on a back tooth. Remember, the fees for all dental procedures are based on the difficulty of the treatment and how much time it will take your dentist to perform.
Do All Dentists Perform Tooth-Colored Fillings and Restorations?
You would be hard-pressed to find a dentistry practice that doesn’t offer tooth-colored fillings and restorations today. In fact, these days, most dentists only do composite fillings. This is because they want to provide the best possible solution to their patients and preserving your smile’s structural integrity and aesthetics are always the top goals. Keep in mind that there are twelve recognized dental specialties, and not all of them will do fillings. For example, an oral surgeon typically doesn’t perform any type of tooth restoration. So, when searching for a dentist, be sure to specify that you are looking for a general dentist.
However, while all dentists are qualified to do this type of restoration, some choose not to. If avoiding amalgam-based fillings is important to you, or you have to for certain health reasons, then be sure to ask when scheduling your appointment.
Does Insurance Cover Tooth-Colored Fillings and Restorations?
Most insurance plans will cover at least a portion of a composite filling. However, the restrictions and coverage amounts vary from plan to plan. For example, there are some plans that don’t cover tooth-colored fillings or restoration on back teeth. This is because back in the day, composite fillings were thought to be too “weak” to stand up to the heavy work that takes place in the back of your mouth. But today, composite fillings are the standard, even on back teeth.
As a result, your insurance plan will still pay for your tooth-colored filling, even with a clause that only pays for regular fillings on back teeth. In this case, they may choose to “downgrade” your filling to an amalgam and pay the lesser fee to your dentist. This can result in a higher copay for this procedure at your dental office. However, most are okay with this extra cost because maintaining a bright, white smile is critical for them.
Do They Last Longer Than Regular Fillings?
Your fillings take a lot of wear and tear, and this causes them to break down. There is no tooth restoration that will last your entire lifetime. All in all, regular fillings last on average about five more years than tooth-colored fillings, with a total lifespan of approximately fifteen years.
But, with proper care, your composite filling can last for a long time. Here are some ways to keep your composite in good shape:
- Avoid sticky and gummy candy that will sit on it and break down the edges
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly after drinking red wine, coffee, tea, or soda
- Visit your dentist as often as recommended for professional teeth cleaning
You will know it’s time to replace your filling if you feel any sensitivity in that area or if it starts to look too small for the tooth it’s meant to protect.
Do Tooth-Colored Fillings Hurt More Than Regular Fillings?
The answer is: no, unequivocally no. Modern dentistry prides itself on pain-free dental procedures. Part of the reason having a cavity filled doesn’t hurt is that most of the time, the decay is in a place that doesn’t feel anything. When you have a toothache, it’s due to the nerves inside your tooth. Although there are times that a cavity will come pretty close to the nerve, and in this case, you will probably feel some pain.
But, when your dentist is filling that tooth, they will numb the area, so you don’t feel anything besides a little bit of pressure. If you are nervous about dental treatment or anxious about procedures you think might hurt, talk to your dentist because they may have something to help you relax. For example, some dental offices have headphones, relaxing music, or aromatherapy to keep patients calm and comfortable. Also, most offer nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, to help take the nervous edge off.
Prevent Cavities With Excellent Dental Health
The advent of tooth-colored fillings allowed people to restore their teeth without the dark presence of metal. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid the need for future dental restorations; by maintaining proper dental hygiene at home and visiting your dentist at least twice a year for a check-up and thorough cleaning.
At Dr. Stelianos Bredologos and Dr. Maria Mendrinos Family and Implant Dentistry, we pride ourselves on providing the best dental care for every member of your family. We are a sibling-run practice conveniently located in Virginia Beach, VA, and our goal is a stress-free experience for every patient. Together we can achieve optimum oral health. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.