White fillings can make your smile last

Incisive Bite

Dr Sharon Robinson

Sunday, February 04, 2018

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Dentists have been repairing decayed teeth with silver-coloured ( amalgam) fillings for generations. Even though the American Dental Association (ADA) says these fillings are safe and affordable, more people are now opting for white fillings (composite resins) to improve their smile. Before deciding if a composite resin is a good choice for you, here's what you need to know about the other options out there.

Cast Gold Fillings

Gold has been used to repair teeth for over 1,000 years. Because it's durable and doesn't corrode, gold mixed with other metals is sometimes used to make fillings called inlays and onlays. And although these fillings can last 15 years or more, they require a two-appointment process. Your dentist will first remove the decay, prepare the tooth and take impressions, then a dental laboratory will cast the filling. During the second appointment, the gold filling is permanently cemented onto your tooth. Keep in mind using gold to repair teeth is the most expensive choice due to the current value of gold, plus the amount of work involved in shaping it for dental use.

Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam is a mix of metals, including silver, tin, mercury, copper and zinc. Amalgam fillings are hard-wearing and less costly than its alternatives. Nevertheless, they require the removal of more tooth structure and can corrode over time, discolouring the enamel of the tooth that remains. The biggest disadvantage is their silver colour, which is not esthetic for the front teeth.w

White Fillings

These composite resins – which is a blend of plastics and small glass particles – aren't just good for repairing cavities; they can also be used to change the colour or shape of a tooth. The procedure is simple and consists of just one appointment. Your dentist will first choose the shade of composite that best matches your tooth colour. After removing the decay, he or she will use a special curing light to harden each layer of filling material. The filling will be shaped to fit your tooth and polished so that it remains smooth and resistant to staining.

Why People Like White Fillings

One of the leading advantages of composites is that, with a good colour match, it's almost impossible to see that the tooth had to be restored. And because these fillings bond directly to the enamel, they're strong and resist wear, usually lasting more than five years. With current advances in composite materials, many are holding up even longer. Although they cost less than gold fillings, composites are more expensive than amalgams. Most insurance companies cover these fillings.

Keeping Your White Fillings Healthy

To keep your composite fillings looking their best, and to prevent the need for any more repairs, you'll want to stay on top of even the most basic oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and soft-bristled toothbrush, and make a habit of flossing once a day. Limit sugary snacks and sodas, and see your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings. For extra protection against decay-causing bacteria, try an antibacterial mouthwash. Composites need to be equally protected from changes in colour, so try to avoid smoking, drinking coffee and teas and other foods that can stain – such as blueberries and red wine.

Every filling material has its pros and cons. White fillings are unsurpassed for a resilient smile, whereas amalgam fillings are just as strong, long-lasting and less expensive than composites or gold. Your preference notwithstanding, it's always wise to consult your dentist about which type of filling will function best in you.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa located at Shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, for an opportunity to take advantage of weekly specials.

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