Fillings used to be silver in the back teeth and white in the front. Occasionally gold inlays or onlays were used for extra strength or to rebuild broken teeth. Now there is a much wider choice of filling materials which allow a more natural, tooth-coloured restoration to be achieved. Many of these new materials are bonded or adhered to the tooth which seals the cavity and re-strengthens the remaining enamel.
If you are conscious of a mouth full of grey or silver metal when you laugh, you may want to consider replacing your amalgam (silver) fillings with white fillings. White fillings are a more attractive alternative using composite resin which is a porcelain-like material that actually bonds to the tooth for a tight seal. These fillings are strong and stain resistant and can be colour matched to the natural tooth making them invisible. White or composite fillings are especially suited for smaller cavities and for patients who may be allergic to metal fillings.
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Tooth bonding is an affordable, quick and painless way to repair many cosmetic flaws. It can be used very effectively to improve the appearance of chipped, stained or heavily filled front teeth, and also to close up small gaps between front teeth and improve the appearance of slightly crooked ones.
The procedure involves a special tooth-like material which is bonded or ‘stuck’ onto the surface of a tooth. The material is molded into shape and set under a special light. The final result is indistinguishable from the normal tooth.
An aesthetically elegant result is achieved using little or no drilling. This means that the original tooth structure is maintained. If for some reason you don’t like the new appearance the bonded material can be removed. Other good reasons for a tooth bonding solution are that (1) the bonded material can easily be repaired if an accident happens, and (2) the treatment can be done on permanent teeth at any age. If the bonded surface ever becomes dulled it can be re-polished or resurfaced by your dentist.
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Dental inlays or onlays are used to restore teeth with mild to moderate decay, or teeth that have cracks or fractures that are not severe enough for a crown. They can also be used to replace metal fillings.
Inlays are used to restore teeth were the decay or damage is within the indented top surfaces. Onlays are used to restore teeth where the decay or damage extends to the cusp of the tooth or beyond. Inlays or onlays are made from porcelain, composite resin or gold.
Inlays and Onlays are a two step process, because they are fabricated by a laboratory using the impression taken by your dentist. You will be fitted with a temporary inlay or onlay while you wait for the finished restoration to return.
Because they are customised to your tooth, they can be more securely bonded to the tooth surface, adding structural integrity and preventing bacteria from entering and forming cavities.
Advantages of these restorations are:
- Porcelain and composite resin can be colour matched to your teeth, hence the inlays and onlays are virtually invisible and create a healthier, more natural-looking smile.
- They will not stain.
- Inlays and onlays made from porcelain or composite resin are resistant to temperature changes of hot or cold foods. Not only do they insulate the tooth, this means they do not expand or contract, which can cause teeth to weaken or fracture.
- More of your tooth is preserved in using inlays and onlays, than with metal fillings or crowns. It is always preferred to retain as much of your own tooth structure as possible.
- Once bonded to the tooth they are very strong, and actually help to strengthen teeth by up to 75 percent.
- Inlays and onlays will last much, much longer than conventional fillings and are best for large cavities.
- Perhaps their most important benefit, however, is that, in saving damaged teeth, onlays help patients avoid the eventual need for more extensive treatment with dental crowns, dental bridges, or dental implants.
Gold inlays may be use in heavy bite situations or for people who chronically grind their teeth.
CEREC® inlays and onlays are very strong and use the latest cad-cam technology to fabricate the restoration during one appointment. CEREC® has the advantages of being strong, tooth-coloured and convenient to place.
There may still be occasional situations when your dentist might recommend a gold inlay or onlay to restore a tooth. Some back teeth bite forces can be extremely heavy and gold is still the strongest available material, in fact, we still see some gold fillings that were placed more than fifty years ago.
Due to the advances in white filling materials, silver amalgam is not used in as many cases as in the past. Your dentist may still consider using amalgam as it has some strength advantages and is quite simple to place. However due to its metallic colour, we find more and more people requesting white fillings.
Don’t hesitate to discuss the choice of filling material with your dentist so that we can achieve the result that pleases you most.
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