It used to be that when it came to treating tooth decay (cavities), your primary option was to have the tooth decay removed and filled with a metal amalgam (silver-colored filling). This treatment sometimes requires a special shape cut called an “undercut” to be drilled into the tooth to hold it in. Unfortunately, it can also involve removal of some healthy tooth structure. Silver amalgam fillings still have limited applications and are still used in back teeth where they don't show in the smile. This is because they are strong and resist biting well; however, over time they can fatigue and fracture.
Older restorative concepts were based upon the development of strong and stiff materials such as gold, which tends to be unyielding and therefore contributed to failures of the remaining tooth substance around restorations (e.g., decay or cracking). Newer concepts tend to get away from the “stronger and stiffer is better” concept and have moved towards safety principles using materials that involve mimicking the properties of natural tooth structure. In fact, it is now clearly established that a new “biomimetic approach” (“bio” – life; “mimetic” – mimicking) to dentistry is possible through the use of tooth-like materials such as composite resins and porcelains. And unlike metal alloys, these newer materials bond directly to the remaining enamel and dentin of which the teeth themselves are made, which both stabilize and strengthen teeth.
These techniques are also suitable for children's teeth and can incorporate fluoride to reduce further decay. But perhaps best of all, using these materials and more modern technologies can restore proper tooth function and normal wear while producing results that appear indistinguishable from natural teeth.
To learn more, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.” You can also contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions about replacing your metal fillings with tooth-colored ones.