Bonded Composite Resin Restorations: "Tooth-Colored" Fillings

Tooth-colored fillings have been used in dentistry for many years, especially to restore front teeth. The newest tooth-colored filling materials (resins) are quite successfully used to restore cavities in back teeth as well. These composite resin materials are especially useful when the restoration will be visible when you talk or smile. These posterior (back) tooth-colored resins can be expected to last for several years, but very large fillings are not good candidates for composite resins as a definitive restoration. A reasonable estimate at this time for normal sized fillings is approximately 10 to 12 years or more. The length of time the resin fillings (and a silver amalgam filling) last depends on the position and size of the filling, the care the patient gives it, and the foods the patient eats.

Resin restorations in back teeth require less drilling than for silver amalgam fillings because they bond to remainng tooth structure and do not depend on any mechanical retention (in most cases). The less the dentist must drill your tooth, the better off your tooth is and the fewer potential dental problems may develop in the future. When a tooth is prepared (drilled), it becomes weaker; restoring it with a bonded resin material can help make it strong again.

Advantages of the resin restorations include a natural finished appearance similar to that of your real tooth and the most conservative removal of tooth structure. They require only one appointment for completion.

Disadvantages of tooth-colored fillings in posterior teeth include the difficulty in their placement. There can be no saliva or blood contamination, so the surrounding "gums" must be healthy. They should not be placed far below the "gumline". They also cost about 50% more than silver fillings due to the increased time and care required for placement. They can be used only rarely in patients who have a grinding or bruxing (clenching) habit. They cannot be easily used in areas where there is not a sufficient amount of original tooth structure (a crown is really indicated). And they require more time to place and finish.

Resin restorations are among the most conservative restorations in dentistry today. They require the least amount of drilling. The smaller any filling can be, the better. They are best for small to medium fillings. In areas where the display of metal from a silver filling would be unsightly, they are of great cosmetic importance.

If you have any questions about composite resin "tooth-colored" restorations, please feel free to ask us.

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