Why You May Not See the True Value of Tooth-Colored Fillings

Dental Fillings in Houston, TXThe need for reliable restorations has not decreased as we have made progress in preventive dentistry. In Royal Dental offices throughout the Houston area, our knowledgable staff offers several ways to avoid dental disease. From early childhood dental care to routine cleanings to specific treatments such as dental sealants, we focus as much as we can on helping patients keep their natural teeth healthy for life. Because we understand that there are times when problems like cavities may arise, we have also armed ourselves with the latest restorative methods. The tooth-colored filling is one of them.

Because It Looks Like a Tooth

If we were to ask you why a tooth-colored filling is nice to have, you might say something like “because it looks like a tooth.” This is true, and it is one of the primary reasons why patients appreciate this filling. The availability of a filling that looks like a tooth demonstrates how far we have come since the early days of formal dentistry.

The first fillings to be used were made of gold. Nice! In fact, gold was a very nice option because this metal was one of the only that was capable of a long-lasting fit in dental enamel. The problem was, gold was expensive. As an alternative, dental amalgam was developed. This type of filling was called a “silver filling” then and still is today. But it’s not just silver that is in an amalgam; there is also copper, tin, and elemental mercury. Remember how we said that gold fillings were valuable because they could fit will in enamel? Amalgam isn’t quite as good at this.

When metal gets hot, it naturally swells. When we chew, friction is created between teeth, so, where there are fillings, they will get hot. If the filling is made of amalgam, it will also swell. This isn’t good for the long-term health of the tooth. Metal that swells when hot then shrinks when it is cooled. This is the problem with dental amalgam. A filling needs to maintain tight margins to keep bacteria out. The frequent swelling and shrinking of amalgam can degrade margins, making the tooth vulnerable to further decay.

Tooth-colored fillings look good; that’s true. They also restore a high degree of strength to teeth because they can be bonded to enamel and because their margins remain intact even when heating and cooling occurs.

Our interest lies in helping you and your family enjoy healthy, attractive smiles for life. To schedule a visit to an office near you, call (713) 330-7700.

Advantages of the Tooth-colored Filling

dental fillings houston tx | Royal DentalIf you had lived at the turn of the 20th Century, your dental concerns would have revolved more around keeping your teeth than in keeping your natural smile aesthetic. Today, most people expect to keep their teeth for a lifetime. The idea of tooth loss, once a given, is now an unpleasant surprise. At the same time, the idea of having a cavity filled with antiquated dental amalgam is also somewhat unheard of. The choice most patients now make is to undergo restorative care with a tooth-colored filling.

Amalgam fillings, aka “silver fillings,” seem to have been invented in a long-ago, far-away land. This metal alloy mixture was the norm for many decades. However, it has gradually been replaced with composite fillings. These fillings are made of microscopic particles of plastic and glass that are mixed into a putty-like substance. Most people do tend to look at the aesthetic value of composite fillings. They aren’t called tooth-colored fillings for nothing! In addition to the color-matching that makes composite fillings look just like natural teeth, though, there are other benefits that make this restorative option so appealing.


Composite fillings are completed in a single visit. The putty material is chemically bonded to the tooth. This is quite different from the mechanical retention of an amalgam. To keep an amalgam in place, it is necessary to form the tooth in a specific way; with a “lip” of sorts that keeps the filling from falling out. As you can imagine, creating the right opening for the filling means that more tooth matter needs to be removed than would otherwise be necessary. The chemical bonding of the composite eliminates the need for excessive reduction of the tooth. This not only preserves the natural structure, which is preferable, but it also heightens the end-result regarding durability.


The conversation about which types of restorations last the longest continues. Some have said that amalgams are longer lasting than composites. However, due to the metallic nature of dental amalgam, these fillings are likely to crack at some point. Their margins, as well, shrink over time, which can let bacteria beneath the filling. Composites last many years due to the bonding process, as well as the minimal movement of the resin substance under hot and cold temperatures.

Dental fillings are some of the most common restorations. Knowing your options, you can better choose the method of repair that will provide you with the desired result.


What Should I Do If My Filling Falls Out?

shutterstock_171527912It can be really scary when you realize that your filling just fell out. No filling will last forever and will eventually fail and need replacement. Regular visits to the dentist will help determine if it is time to be proactive and replace a filling. However, in the event that a filling falls out unexpectedly, there is no need to panic, but you do need to know what steps to take.

Remove the Filling From Your Mouth

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you remove any pieces of the filling from your mouth to prevent accidentally swallowing it. It is particularly important to remove it from your mouth to prevent accidentally inhaling it into your lungs, as this could cause an infection.

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Once you have removed the filling you can set it aside for now. At this point, you need to call your dentist and explain what happened. Many dentists will have times set aside in their schedules for lost fillings or other dental problems. You can ask the dentist if they want to you keep the filling or not. In most cases there’s no need to save the filling, however, there are some cases where the dentist may want to see it.

Proper Hygiene & Care

In some cases, you may have to wait a few days before you get to your dentist. It is important to take some precautions and practice impeccable oral hygiene until you do. Take care not to eat anything that might case further damage to the tooth. It may be best to try chewing on the other side of the mouth if possible and eat softer foods. Avoid sugary foods and especially sodas as these can quickly cause tooth decay to begin. An unfilled tooth is a good trap for food which can cause harmful bacteria to accumulate. Be sure to brush gently and carefully inside the hole where the filling was to ensure removal of all food debris. It is also a good idea to rinse your mouth out with warm salt water after eating.

What If I Have Pain?

If you experience pain after losing the filling, then it is likely that you have exposed dentin tubules. The dentin tubules are what sends the brain the signal of pain. You can try taking some over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil to relieve the pain. However, if this fails you can also try to cover the dentin tubules by putting a temporary filling material inside the hole. There are a few different brands of temporary dental filling materials on the market such as Dentemp, Temparin, and Refilit.

The Outcome

If you take care not to further damage the tooth and practice good oral hygiene and then get to your dentist in a timely manner there should be no reason why your dentist can not treat the tooth with another filling. Be aware though that in some cases the loss of the filling may have been caused by damage to the tooth or a deep cavity under the filling. In this case, your dentist will present a treatment plan to address this.


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