Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Shades of white: Tooth colored fillings

Rodney Dangerfield, the American comedian and actor, best remembered for his line "I don't get no respect!", once remarked "I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow. He told me to wear a brown tie!" Well, the world has changed and respect is no longer in wearing contrasting ties but having matching fillings in your teeth. 
 We come across "tooth colored fillings" in a lot of marketing campaigns and cosmetic magazines. Patients demand that their teeth be restored with "the tooth colored filling". Treatment cost for these fillings spans the pennies in your pocket to whatever's in the wallet. So here is a run down on the three types of tooth colored fillings that your dentist may be referring to. 

1. Tooth-colored Cement filling. This is a low strength filling material that can be quickly done at the chair-side. Best used for fillings in milk teeth and fillings at the junction of your tooth crown and root, they have a limited shade range and are not exactly tooth colored. They have been used for decades in dentistry and are the go to fillings in many situations. 
  • Technical Name: Glass ionomer cement
  • Good: Releases cavity-preventing fluoride, Chemically attaches (bonds) to the tooth
  • Not so good: Low strength, Poor cosmetics
  • Cost: Minimum
  • Additional reading: More about tooth colored fillings
2. Tooth-colored Composite filling. This is what your dentist should actually be doing when you ask him for a tooth-colored filling. Your dentist minimally drills the tooth, packs the cavity with composite, strengthens it in place within seconds using light and polishes it for you to walk away with a beautiful, healthy smile. 

  • Technical Name: Resin-based Dental Composites
  • Good: High strength, High cosmetics
  • Not so good: Needs refurbishing/ replacement every few years
  • Cost: Worthwhile
  • Additional reading: Bonding in dentistry
3. Tooth-colored Ceramic filling. If you thought ceramic was only for crowns and bridges, you are missing out on the best material for your cavity. It is done where other fillings will not work, it is done where other fillings will not last and it is done where other fillings will lack the beauty of it all. 
  • Technical name: Ceramic inlays/ onlays
  • Good: Best in strength, longevity and cosmetics
  • Not so good: Requires multiple visits to the dentist and more tooth drilling
  • Cost: Substantially high
  • Additional reading: Inlays and Onlays

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