White Fillings

White Fillings in Silver Spring & Hyattsville

Before and after dental treatment

When someone says “dentistry,” one of the first things you think about is probably “cavities.” Dental cavities or caries, caused by tooth decay, are indeed one of the most common problems treated by dentists. As such, the ways in which dentists fix cavities have evolved and expanded to include many different options.

For example, if you were to get a filling about twenty years ago, you’d probably be presented with an amalgam — a filling made from an alloy of metals including silver, tin, and copper bound together by mercury. However, as fears of using mercury in fillings (mostly unfounded) grew in the 1990s, dentists developed another type of material used in fillings: the composite filling.

Nowadays, dentists like Dr. Allen Gotora from Stellar Dental in Maryland generally recommend composite fillings for their patients, though for reasons unrelated to concerns about mercury.

Why should I get composite fillings?

So if the problem with amalgams isn’t the mercury, what is it? The answer may be hard to intuit at first, but is startlingly clear in retrospect: amalgams have a distinct metallic color that can be off-putting to a patient. Chances are, if someone has had a cavity filled with the metal alloy, you’d immediately notice it. The silvery shade of the filling stands out starkly against the creamy white of an ordinary tooth.

By contrast, white fillings — a colloquial name for composite fillings — are just that: white. Composite fillings can be dyed to match the color of a patient’s tooth exactly, meaning that the result should be undetectable by an outside observer. This is possible because of the materials from which composite fillings are made. Rather than being a mixture of various metals, composite fillings are formed from a glass, plastic, and ceramic mix that maintains structural integrity of the filling while being a light enough shade to customize and dye.

This chiefly cosmetic difference may seem like a minor problem when you’re getting the filling, but it’s a very rewarding difference in the long term. Keep in mind that the filling you get will last you at least 10 years — you definitely don’t want a metallic reminder of a former cavity for that long!

Ultimately, this cosmetic choice is what leads dentists across the nation to pick composite fillings over amalgams.

What is the procedure for composite fillings like?

For the most part, the procedure for placing composite fillings is very similar to the procedure for installing fillings in general. First, the tooth with the cavity has to be prepared. The dentist will carefully file down the sides of the cavity, shaping the gap so that the filling material can more easily fit into the cavity. This can help the filling conform to the shape of the cavity more easily and make the result as permanent as possible. A local anesthesia is almost always applied before this phase to keep the patient comfortable and pain-free while this preparation stage is carried out.

After the preparation is finished, the composite material will be inserted into the gap, one thin layer at a time. Once the dentist is satisfied with the placement, he or she will shine an ultraviolet light over the composite substance, causing it to harden and bond to the teeth. Not only does this make sure that the filling is strong enough to withstand the pressures of chewing, it helps keep the filling permanent. Composite fillings will chemically bond with the enamel of the teeth so they won’t accidentally fall out at a later date. Layers of composite will be applied and cured until the entire space is filled.

After the filling is secured, the dentist will carefully polish and file the edges of the filling to make sure the final shape resembles the original tooth as much as possible. Additionally, this polishing can prevent the filling from staining or becoming damaged soon after the procedure thus lengthening the lifespan of the restorative process.

If you think you have a cavity and might need a filling, you should visit a dentist as soon as possible to make sure the problem doesn’t get worse over time. If you’re in Maryland, you can always visit Dr. Allen Gotora at Stellar Dental for more information. Just call (301) 754-1900 or visit our website at http://stellardentalllc.com/ to set up an appointment today!