You think of them as cavities. When decay starts to eat away at a tooth, the decay must be removed. You have a “cavity.”
The actual term is “caries.” We know; that seems odd. Sounds like something more for a Rams’ running back. Caries is actually the term for when decay has attacked a tooth and needs to be removed. It’s the most common form of oral disease known to man, dental caries.
The term “cavity” really is a misnomer. Once a dentist like Dr. Fong removes the decay from a tooth, the tooth then has a cavity. That cavity needs to be “filled,” hence the term filling.
Dr. Fong places more and more composite resin fillings these days. These are also known as tooth-color fillings. While we still place silver amalgam fillings, as well, the future seems to belong to composite resin. Here’s why.
Mercury in your mouth
If you’re over 40, chances are you have at least one molar with a silver area on the chewing surface. Most people think these older fillings are silver. Actually, they’re not silver; they consist of mostly mercury! That is disconcerting to many people. Silver fillings are made of silver amalgam. To make them, dentists mix mercury (50% of the eventual filling) with a powder comprised of silver, copper, tin, or zinc (usually a combination of some or all of those). There really isn’t any potential for harm from the mercury in your amalgam fillings. They’ve been studied by the FDA and they’ve been used since the 1800s. Still, some people don’t like the idea of being like a fish at the bottom of Lake Erie.
Disadvantages of amalgam fillings
As tooth-colored fillings have become more popular, the appearance of amalgam fillings is obviously a drawback for most patients. There are other issues with them, as well. The edges of amalgam fillings can wear down, become weak, or break. This creates an environment where decay can take hold again. Also, as they age the mercury, silver, and other metals in amalgam fillings expand and contract. This can make the filling split, or it can even crack a tooth. Plus, they can corrode, leak, and stain your adjacent teeth and your gums.
Restorations that blend right in
That’s why Dr. Fong is using composite resin for more and more fillings. The resin is made of a mixture of plastic and glass and it is bonded to the teeth in layers, making these restorations structurally strong. Plus they create a tight, superior fit to the tooth. And, unlike amalgam fillings, where a part of the healthy tooth needs to be removed to make room for the filling, Resin composite fillings can be placed into teeth that have lost more of their tooth structure.
The knock on composite resin has always been its durability. But technological advances are making these restorations stronger and stronger every day. They are to the point now of almost rivaling the durability of silver amalgam.
Do you have a tooth that has become overly sensitive to hot or cold? Decay may be making its way into the tooth. Please call Dr. Fong at (714) 549-1903 to schedule your appointment.