Traditional silver amalgam (metal) fillings have been around for a long time.
There are a lot of good things about amalgam fillings. They’re relatively inexpensive, they’re quick to place, they’re durable, and they can withstand a lot of bite pressure. That’s why amalgam fillings are usually placed in the back teeth where you do your chewing.
There are also some downsides to metal fillings.
- Amalgam fillings require more of the tooth to be removed, which can weaken it.
- Many people experience heat and cold sensitivity, which is uncomfortable.
- An accidental touch of metal to the filling can send an electric-like shock through the nerve.
- While there’s no hard evidence, some people are concerned about mercury leaching out of the fillings and causing or contributing to illness.
- And some people just hate the way they look.
The Advantages of Composite Fillings
Composite fillings contain fine glass particles and acrylic. The mixture can be colored to match the shade of tooth, making it virtually invisible. Many people find composite fillings to be better on aesthetics alone. Composite restorations have other advantages:
- The dentist can make a smaller preparation, meaning more of the tooth structure is retained.
- There’s is no mercury or other metals to trigger health concerns.
- Composite fillings can bond to the tooth which actually strengthen it.
- Composite fillings can resist a lot of chewing pressure, although not as much as amalgam fillings.
Composite fillings also have some downsides: they can be stained by coffee, tea, and tobacco use and won’t whiten if you whiten your teeth. They’re somewhat more expensive than metal fillings, but not overly so. And a little more time is required for composite restorations than for amalgam fillings.
Which Type of Filling is Right for You?
The question of which type of filling is right for you is something that’s best determined by a dentist. Fillings are designed to restore a tooth’s function and to protect the tooth from infection and further injury. No two teeth or fillings are identical, so every situation is different.
In some cases, metal fillings may be preferred for their superior durability. In other situations, retaining as much of the tooth structure as possible is important, making composite the material of choice.
In most cases, though, the choice is yours. You’ll find that more and more dentists are doing composite restorations only, so your options may be limited depending on where you live.
Don’t Fear the Drill
Removing existing amalgam fillings and replacing them with composite fillings is almost always a routine procedure. The exception would be if decay is found under the existing filling.
The entire area will be completely numbed before any work begins. You might be one of the more than 150 million people with some level of dental anxiety. If so, you’ll be happy to know that Tulip Tree Dental offers two levels of dental sedation to keep you comfortable and relaxed through your entire procedure.
Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a form of sedation that you inhale through a mask. After a few breaths, you’ll begin to feel relaxed and comfortable. You may even experience a sense of giddiness, which is how it got the nickname “laughing gas.”
The effects of nitrous oxide wear off very quickly once the flow of gas is stopped. You’ll be able to drive yourself home after your appointment.
Oral Conscious Sedation
For people with moderate to severe dental anxiety, we also offer oral sedation. Once you’re in our office, we’ll administer a sedative via a pill or capsule. You’ll swallow the pill up to an hour before your procedure begins. When the effects kick in, you’ll feel relaxed, comfortable, and drowsy.
The effects of conscious oral sedation last well after your appointment ends. You’ll definitely need someone to drive to and from your appointment.
Other Comfort Measures
For many people, the sound of the dental drill is the worst thing about going to the dentist. You can watch television or listen to music during your procedure. And, we have warm blankets available if you get chilly.
If you have a metal filling that’s failing, or you just hate the way you look, schedule an appointment with Dr. Hurcomb by calling our office at 574-208-5668. You can also use our online scheduling application which will collect all the information necessary to provide you with dental care. It also allows you to choose the date and time for your appointment that works well with your schedule. Or, you can use our online form to send us a message if you have questions or concerns.