Tooth colored fillings, also called white fillings, are dental fillings that restore and mimic the natural appearance of tooth structure. In addition to restoring teeth that have fractured or decayed, tooth colored fillings may also be used cosmetically to change the size, color and shape of teeth. This quality is particularly useful in closing gaps between teeth; repairing chipped teeth and making teeth appear to be more straight or even chipped front tooth repaired with tooth colored composite resin.
What are the advantages of tooth colored fillings (white fillings)?
They closely match natural tooth color and appearance. They bond to tooth structure chemically and thus do not require the placement of slots, grooves or pins in healthy tooth structure to mechanically retain them. The bonding of white fillings to the tooth restore 85% – 95% of the original strength of the tooth. They completely harden in seconds instead of days required by some other materials. Tooth sensitivity, if any, due to composite resin use is minimal and brief. They may be used on front and back teeth without compromising esthetics. If damaged they can be repaired.
Most tooth colored fillings (white fillings) are composite resin fillings
Tooth colored fillings were first introduced to the American public in the mid 1960’s. Since that time tooth colored filling materials have undergone continual improvements in durability, esthetics and material handling. The most versatile and widely used tooth colored filling today is composite resin filling. A composite is a material in which filler particles are encased in and bound together by a hard matrix material. For composite resin fillings a fluid matrix of an acrylic, called BIS-GMA, is hardened around glass filler particles to form composite resin. Trace metals (e.g. cobalt, gold and copper) give color to the glass while zirconium and titanium oxides add opacity.
How are composite resin fillings placed?
Tooth colored composite fillings are chemically bonded to teeth. For this reason, the placement of white fillings does not always require numbing the area being restored. Numbing (anesthetizing) the area is often required if tooth decay has progressed beneath the enamel layer and into the underlying dentin layer which surrounds the nerve of the tooth. Once decay is removed, the tooth is cleaned and a primer (weak acid) is applied to the area being restored. The primer opens pores in the enamel and dentin. A bonding agent is then flowed into the open pores and cured. Curing prepares the bonding agent to adhere to the tooth colored filling material. The filling material is then placed inside the tooth. After shaping the tooth colored filling material to resemble the natural anatomy of your tooth it is hardened by curing with a strong curing light. Once the white filling hardens, your bite will be checked to make sure your teeth fit together properly. If the tooth filling extends into the space between your teeth your dentist will also make sure you can floss between your teeth properly. Adjustments will be made if necessary followed by smoothing and polishing of your new filling.