Some dental restorations are better known by their technical names, such as glass ionomer cement (a type of filling material), or a subperiosteal dental implant (a tooth implant fitted under the gums, but above the jawbone). Other types of dental work have names that are more self-explanatory, like a dental crown (a porcelain shell that crowns a damaged tooth), or a white filling.
A white filling has another name, and that's composite resin. But to call it a white filling makes more sense, and gives a better idea of what the work achieves. It's one of the more common restorations used in general dentistry and is a tough, robust filling material that integrates with the tooth structure.
This integration means that the filling material blends into the tooth, making the cavity and its subsequent filling essentially invisible. It's called a white filling, because it's the same color as the tooth, and is mixed by your dentist to be an exact match for your specific tooth. This differs from older styles of fillings, which were made of a metal amalgam, and looked quite conspicuous. Metal amalgam fillings have long been superseded by composite resin fillings. But is composite resin always the best choice when filling a tooth cavity?
Cost and Comfort
In terms of cost, you're likely to prefer a composite resin filling. Because it has become the standard filling material for tooth decay, its widespread ease of use makes it one of the more cost-effective filling materials. The patient experience is also a pleasant one, since the material can be quickly applied, and hardens almost instantly. A damaged tooth is restored immediately, both in terms of physical appearance and functionality. Are there any real downsides to a white filling?
There are occasions when a dentist will attempt to replace a certain portion of lost tooth structure with tooth-colored composite resin—only for the resin to prove inadequate to secure the tooth. The larger area of tooth surface that's lost, the less structural strength the tooth has. In good faith, a dentist may use white filling material, only for filling to later fail due to the concentration of bite force that the restoration then experiences. In this instance, a stronger restoration, such as a dental crown that fits over the entire tooth, will be required.
Additionally, a white filling won't stay white forever. Composite resin is porous, although to a different level than the natural surface of your tooth. A resin filling will eventually discolor and will need to be replaced. However, this isn't a regular issue. On average, a resin filling should last for around seven years.
White fillings are a preferred restoration material for a reason—several reasons in fact.
For more information, contact a local company like Mark A. Massa, DDS, Inc.