Tooth-Colored Fillings & Dental Inlays/Onlays
Philadelphia, Main Line, and Ardmore, Pennsylvania Cosmetic Dentistry
Cosmetic Dentistry Expertise
What Are Tooth-Colored Fillings?
If you are like most people, you do not much like the appearance of metal fillings. Tooth-colored fillings, also known as white fillings, or composite fillings can effectively restore decaying teeth and replace old metal fillings. They are made of a composite resin with components including silicone dioxide and plastic. Fillings, bonding, onlays/inlays are popular ways to repair damaged or decaying teeth.
Cosmetic dentist Dr. Lindsey Marshall’s office is mercury-free and metal-free and offers white fillings and porcelain fillings.
White Fillings vs. Metal Fillings
Unlike gray metal, white fillings look completely natural. Dr. Marshall can color them to match your own tooth enamel.
The procedure is much like the old amalgam procedure with two differences:
- Composite resin is metal- and mercury-free
- The filling is bonded to the tooth rather than just packed tightly into the cavity
By being bonded to the tooth, the filling pulls inward on the tooth’s periphery, holding it together. This is in contrast to metal fillings, which exert outward pressure and will eventually fracture the tooth.
Tooth-colored fillings also benefit you by requiring less healthy tooth tissue to be removed. When a metal filling is placed, the cavity must be shaped to hold it in, and must be given a ridged surface, requiring removal of some healthy tissue. Bonding eliminates that necessity.
Composite Fillings vs. Porcelain Fillings
Tooth-colored fillings do not have as much of a pearly sheen as porcelain fillings, although they are white and matched to your natural teeth. Tooth-colored fillings are also not quite as durable as porcelain fillings. If you need a filling on a front surface of a front tooth, you might consider porcelain instead of composite.
A word of caution if you are considering a teeth whitening treatment: White composite will not be affected by the bleaching agent. Have the whitening treatment done before your new fillings are placed. This way, Dr. Marshall can match the fillings to your new tooth color.
Porcelain fillings provide a natural appearance that closely resembles your own teeth. Dental porcelain has the same translucent appearance as natural tooth enamel. Once the porcelain filling is bonded to your tooth, it becomes extremely durable and resistant to wear and tear. Cosmetic dentist Dr. Lindsey Marshall has extensive experience and hands-on skill using CEREC technology to create porcelain fillings and porcelain crowns.
Porcelain fillings are a much safer alternative to the old metal amalgam fillings. The porcelain is so similar in appearance to your natural teeth that nobody will know you have a filling. Because the porcelain filling is bonded to the tooth, it preserves and strengthens the tooth, rather than weakening and eventually fracturing it, as a metal filling does.
The Porcelain Filling Procedure
To create a porcelain filling, Dr. Marshall cleans and prepares your tooth and takes digital photographs and measurements. She will choose a shade of porcelain to match your teeth and use our CEREC system CAD-CAM software to design the filling. The CEREC system includes a mill that will make the filling to the exact dimensions Dr. Marshall provides.
You will not always have to come for a second visit. The CEREC system allows us to bypass the dental laboratory so you won’t have to wait while your porcelain filling gets made. You also won’t need a temporary filling. With CEREC, you come for one visit only and leave with an invisible and comfortable restoration done with microscopic accuracy.
What Are The Advantages of Porcelain Fillings?
Porcelain fillings offer:
- Strength and durability
- A longer tooth life than is offered by amalgam fillings
- Beautiful merging with your natural tooth color
- Exceptional cosmetic appeal
Dr. Marshall has been a practicing cosmetic dentist since 1998 and has received recognition for her studies and work at LVI (Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies) and other well-known educational institutions. She is trained to work with porcelain and to design excellent dental restorations.
The Replacement of Metal Fillings
You probably know that mercury is a toxin and has been banned to varying degrees in many countries. Dr. Lindsey Marshall is dedicated to providing you with the safest and most advanced procedures, technology and products available. Dr. Marshall believes it is her responsibility to minimize your exposure to any possible risks.
Because of the controversy over dental use of mercury and metal and the possible threat to your health, we have chosen to make our office metal-free and mercury-free. Instead of metal amalgam and gold, we use tooth-colored composite and dental porcelain. Both of these materials are matched in shade to your natural teeth, and they offer greater safety and visual appeal than any metal restorations.
Whether or not you should replace your metal fillings is an individual choice. If they are old and beginning to discolor the tooth or threatening to crack it, you probably should consider having them replaced with porcelain fillings or tooth-colored fillings.
Mercury and Dental Fillings
Mercury is classified as a neurotoxin. Metal amalgam fillings consist of 50% mercury mixed with zinc, copper, silver and tin. It is known that mercury vapor is released from metal fillings when you chew, but it is not yet clear whether that amount of vapor is significantly harmful.
Some studies have found no adverse effects from amalgam fillings, but others have found a correlation between the number and size of metal fillings in the teeth and the levels of mercury in body tissues. The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) opposes the use of amalgam, although the American Dental Association still asserts that mercury in fillings is safe.
Use of amalgam has been declining steadily in the U.S. as the public has become more aware of the potential threat to general health.
To protect you from any unnecessary health risk, Dr. Marshall has chosen not to offer metal fillings. She can replace your old metal fillings with either tooth-colored fillings using dental composite or porcelain fillings, if you would like to have that done. Safety precautions would be taken against mercury vapor and particles.
Tooth Damage With Metal Amalgam Fillings
Besides raising the mercury risk, amalgam fillings will eventually fracture the teeth they fill because the metal expands and contracts with every hot and cold substance put into the mouth. This puts ongoing stress on the tooth enamel.
There are other ways that amalgam fillings hurt your teeth:
- They are not bonded to the tooth, but are packed tightly into the cavity
- They exert outward pressure on the tooth’s perimeter, rather than pulling the tooth together as a porcelain filling does
- The teeth must have healthy tissue removed to shape a cavity that will hold them in
- As the enamel thins with age, the dark metal shows through, discoloring the whole tooth
Metal fillings look unattractive, marring your smile with their dark gray color. Some people find they have an allergy to one or more of the metals in the amalgam.
What Are Dental Inlays/Onlays?
Dental inlays and dental onlays are restorations for teeth with decay, cracks, or large chips broken out of them. Whether Dr. Lindsey Marshall does an inlay or an onlay depends on the size of the damaged area.
- An inlay is a porcelain filling that fits inside the tooth’s cusps;
- An onlay extends further, over one or more cusps, and repairs part of the tooth’s outside surface. If a tooth is too damaged to be restored with an onlay, it would require a dental crown.
Dental inlays and onlays are made from porcelain matched to your natural teeth. Inlays and onlays are often used to replace existing mercury fillings. Porcelain is more structurally sound than metal fillings, since the ceramic is bonded to the tooth rather than just packed into it tightly. Inlays and onlays can prevent bacteria from spreading between the restoration and the tooth and causing further decay.
The Inlay and Onlay Procedure
The procedure for a dental inlay or onlay is the same as that for a porcelain filling.
The first step is removal of bacteria from the tooth, along with debris and the decayed tissue they have created. When the tooth is entirely clean, it is photographed for input into our CEREC system.
Dr. Marshall will use the CAD-CAM software that is part of CEREC technology to design your inlay or onlay. She will choose a small block of dental porcelain closely matching your teeth, and the CEREC mill will sculpt it to the exact size and dimensions she has input.
Your porcelain dental inlay or onlay will be temporarily fitted so Dr. Marshall can make sure your bite is unaffected. She will ask you how it feels and will test your bite, making small modifications to the restoration if necessary until you are both pleased. Then she will bond it permanently to the tooth, making it a part of that tooth. It will not be visible as a dental restoration, except to a cosmetic dentist.
Porcelain onlays are a valuable focus of cosmetic dentistry because they can rejuvenate a badly damaged tooth. Onlays fill a gap in the restoration continuum between a filling and a crown. By holding the outside surface to the inside of the tooth, the restoration prolongs the tooth’s life and gives it new chewing or biting strength.
Schedule a Consultation
(610) 649-0696 for a consultation.