Tooth Colored Fillings vs Silver Fillings? – Learn More from an Apex Dentist

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So you have a tooth that has a cavity and needs a filling. Now what?

Most people know that the two most common options are tooth colored fillings (called composite fillings) and silver fillings (called amalgam fillings).  And most people would agree that the composite fillings are much more aesthetically pleasing than the amalgam fillings.  Some patients prefer not to have amalgam fillings because they contain mercery.  However, it is important to note that ongoing scientific studies conducted over the past 100 years continue to show that amalgam fillings are not harmful.  Sometimes the aesthetic outcome is reason enough to choose a tooth colored filling, especially when the tooth is one that is visible when the patient smiles.

But there are other important reasons that most Apex Dentists these days are choosing to use tooth colored composite fillings rather than amalgam.  And these reasons have to do with the major difference in the way they are placed in the mouth.

Composite fillings are resin-based and are chemically bonded to the tooth.  Amalgams are not.  They are held in place due to a physical retention.  This means that after the dentist removes the decay, he also has to remove additional healthy tooth structure in order to create the proper undercuts and retention grooves to hold the amalgam in place.  This process leaves less remaining tooth structure.

The good thing is that amalgams usually lasts for a really long time.  The bad news is that when they do wear out, they tend to cause larger problems because there is less tooth structure remaining to work with. That is why it is common for a very large amalgam to be replaced with a crown.

If a tooth has a composite filling, the dentist is able to be very conservative in how much tooth structure

he/she removes other than the decay.  This could mean that years later when the composite filling eventually wears out, hopefully another larger composite filling can be placed, rather than a crown.

Another common issue is that teeth with old amalgams tend to develop more cracks.  Because the amalgam filling is not bonded to the tooth, the enamel surrounding the filling is unsupported.  Over time, that unsupported tooth structure microscopically flexes when stress is placed on the tooth.  Years of this flexing can cause cracks to form. These cracks can lead to more extensive (and expensive) treatment, such as a crown,  a root canal, or even loss of the tooth depending on the severity of the fracture.

Whether you have composite or amalgam fillings it is important to maintain your regular cleaning and check-up appointments with your Apex dentist. He/she can keep you informed about the condition of your fillings. That way when one does wear out (and they will, because unfortunately no dental work lasts forever), you can be pro-active, which typically leads to a less expensive and more conservative outcome.

What’s the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar? Ask a Dentist in Apex

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WE OFTEN GET THIS QUESTION from our patients, “What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?” Many patients think they are the same thing. However, there is an important difference between the two.  Understanding how they are different can help explain why a daily oral hygiene routine is so crucial, as well as twice-yearly visits to your dentist.

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What Is Plaque?

Dental plaque is the soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth and under your gums. It starts forming soon after you finish brushing. In other words, plaque is constantly accumulating on your teeth. And guess what? It contains millions of bacteria! When you eat—especially carbohydrates or sugar—you’re not the only one getting a meal…so are the bacteria on your teeth. After these bacteria dine on sugar, they produce acids that erode your tooth enamel and cause cavities.

That’s why good daily oral hygiene is essential to preventing tooth decay and protecting your smile from the bacteria in plaque. To prevent plaque buildup, remember to brush at least twice a day and floss once a day. Drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can also help!

What Is Tartar?

So if that’s plaque, what’s tartar? Tartar is what accumulates on your teeth when plaque is not removed. If plaque is left on your teeth for too long, it will harden into tartar and is much more difficult to remove. In fact, tartar can only be removed by a dental professional–you can’t get rid of it with regular brushing and flossing. Tartar removal is one of the reasons that visiting your dentist every six months is so important!

Plaque buildup that hardens into tartar can cause more than just cavities. It can cause tooth discoloration and sensitivity as well as gum recession and periodontal disease. To reduce plaque buildup and tartar from forming, make sure you are brushing and flossing daily.

Come And See Us Every Six Months

No matter how great your oral hygiene is, plaque and tartar formation are inevitable. So come in to see us every six months! Our job is to help you maintain a beautiful, healthy smile that’s plaque- and tarter-free!