Dental Fillings

What is a dental filling?

A dental filling is the replacement of decayed tooth structure to preserve and restore function and appearance. Tooth decay is also known as dental caries.

What causes tooth decay?

Decay is the result of an infection caused by a bacterium. This infection produces demineralization and destruction of hard tissues, the enamel, dentin, and cementum. Over time, the bacteria ferment food debris accumulated on the tooth surface.

What kind of materials are used for fillings?

Most fillings today are dental composites or tooth-colored materials that consist of a mixture of glass and modern plastics. Today’s composites have excellent compression strength and durability. They must be applied to perfectly dry teeth to assure adhesion to the tooth.

Historically, fillings have been made with a variety of materials, including beeswax and alloys of silver, mercury, and tin. An amalgam is an alloy of mercury along with other metals. Fillings have been used for thousands of years to treat tooth decay. Modern dental science was begun by a French doctor, Pierre Fauchard, in the 1600s.

The most important advantage of using composites for fillings is aesthetic. Since an extensive range of tooth colors is available, composites make tooth restoration virtually undetectable. Adhesion is excellent due to the use of dentin bonding agents and acid etching of the tooth to help create a micromechanical bond.

When is a filling used?

Fillings and composites are used for relatively limited damage from cavities. More advanced cases may require dental crowns or onlays.

Dr. Michael and Dr. Pamela Adams use dental composites to restore teeth to their natural state by hand sculpting missing tooth structure. They may use dental composites to build, reshape, or change the color of teeth.

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