June 1, 2016
Cathy is like a lot of people. When she was a teenager she had a cavity, and she got a filling.
At the time, her dentist used amalgam fillings, and she accepted that they were the best option she had. But things are different now.
Today, many dentist offices, like Oregon Smile Care Center in Salem, OR, offer composite fillings instead. These fillings are as effective as amalgam fillings with one big difference. Composite fillings are the same color as Cathy’s teeth, and to her, that’s a huge benefit.
Today, we want to explain what fillings do and why you may prefer a tooth-colored filling to an amalgam one.
Treating Tooth Decay
We wish we could say that tooth decay was rare, but that would not be accurate. Around 91 percent of adults in the United States will have at least one cavity, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
That’s roughly 9 out of every 10 people. Keep up the good work if you’ve never had a cavity, but we also want you to know what your options are if you ever do need a filling.
Cavities are the result of tooth decay, which is caused by bacteria that live in your mouth. When we find decay, our staff will remove it from your teeth, but that’s only part of the process. If we leave the hole created by the decay, then you will be more susceptible to new decay.
By filling the tooth, we effectively seal that part of the tooth, which reduces your risk of that cavity reforming.
Since we use tooth-colored dental fillings, the location of your cavity will be much less apparent when you smile or speak with other people. While fillings are primarily considered a restorative procedure, composite fillings give them a cosmetic benefit as well.
Replacing Old Fillings
What if you are like Cathy from our introduction? You may have amalgam fillings in your mouth as you are reading this.
Like Cathy, those amalgam fillings can leave you feeling a little self-conscious. They have a metallic appearance that can distract other people.
That also turns them into tiny, historic landmark signs for your teeth. “On this site, in 1981, Cathy had her first cavity.”
That may not be the message you want to convey with your smile.
You may be wondering why amalgam fillings look metallic. There’s a simple answer for that. They are made of metals.
About half of any amalgam filling is mercury. The other half can include copper, silver, tin, or a combination of any or all of those three.
From a purely functional standpoint, amalgam fillings do what they are supposed to do. They fill the hole created by your cavity, and they help protect the tooth from new cavities.
Over time, however, all fillings break down. They chip. They crack. They can start to separate from your tooth, and they might fall out. When any of those things happen, your tooth becomes vulnerable again.
This is why from time to time, you will need to replace your filling. If you already have an amalgam filling, you don’t have to get another one. You can replace it with one of our white fillings instead.
Some patients may decide to replace their amalgam fillings for purely cosmetic reasons, and that is fine, too. We are here whenever you are ready to get your new white fillings to protect and preserve your smile.
We are happy that we are able to offer composite fillings for our patients, but we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t take a little time to remind you how you can prevent cavities.
This comes down to doing things that you probably already know you should be doing.
First, brush your teeth twice a day for a two minutes at a time. The American Dental Association recommends using a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Be sure to scrub your teeth on all sides to remove as many bacteria and as much plaque as possible.
Second, floss between all your teeth and behind your back teeth every day. Any dental floss will do as long as you remember to use it.
You want to hug the floss around your teeth on both sides and between your teeth and gums. This is necessary to clean the places that you can’t reach with a toothbrush
One More Thing
The third step in preventing cavities is coming to Oregon Smile Care Center a couple times each year for professional cleanings and examinations. We will remove any plaque or tartar buildup, and we will let you know if we see anything that needs to be treated.
Early intervention means simpler solutions for you and your smile.
If you live in or near Salem, OR, you can call (503) 837-2718 or fill out our easy online form to make any appointment at our dentist office. Whether you need a filling or you are trying to avoid needing one, we are here for you.