Posts for: June, 2014
For decades, dental amalgam — the common “silver” fillings found in the mouths of millions — was the best option for restoring teeth after the removal of decay. This time-tested material is still going strong, but in recent years it's had serious competition from newer restoration techniques that use tooth-colored substances to make fillings. If you've heard of these new materials and want to know more, you can start with the following five facts.
1) Filling materials must match the properties of natural teeth.
When properly cared for, teeth are strong, resilient, and superbly functional. A good filling material should mimic the strength and durability of natural teeth under biting forces. It should also last a long time in the mouth, be relatively easy to place, and be economical in cost. In the past, amalgam fillings were the best choice to do the job. But that was then.
2) Tooth-colored filling materials offer similar benefits, plus aesthetic appeal.
Composite resins and dental porcelains are tough, durable materials that have been found to hold up well under years of use. Unlike traditional silver fillings, however, they match the appearance of natural teeth quite closely. This means that even a restoration in the front of the mouth may be virtually undetectable. And who wouldn't like that?
3) Tooth-colored resins may allow more conservative treatment in decay removal.
In order to keep them securely in place, amalgam (silver) fillings may require “undercutting,” which removes more of the tooth structure. The process involved in bonding tooth-colored restorations, however, generally requires removal of less tooth material. This means a stronger base for rebuilding the tooth's structure.
4) Different treatment methods are used for different degrees of tooth restoration.
Small cavities can be treated by direct “chairside” techniques, which are very similar to the methods used for traditional amalgam (silver) fillings: in one brief visit, it's all done. When a greater volume of tooth structure must be replaced, we may be able to create a larger tooth-colored filling in a longer visit. Or, we might need to have a special restoration made to match your teeth; then, you can come back to have it securely bonded for a natural and long-lasting result.
5) Both amalgam and tooth-colored fillings are safe and effective.
Each has advantages and disadvantages in particular cases. But as the technology of tooth-colored filling systems evolves, some dental researchers have heralded the beginning of the “post-amalgam era.” Are tooth-colored fillings right for your individual situation? We're the ones to ask.
If you would like more information about tooth-colored fillings, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”
One day, while looking at old pictures of himself, 34-year-old American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin noticed something peculiar. “I [had] figured out how to kind of smile without displaying all my teeth,” he told an interviewer with People magazine. The reason: Yamin (like many other people) was unhappy with the way his teeth looked. And others noticed it too: “[They] wrote things in magazines, called me Snaggletooth and things like that,” he said.
Yamin's situation came to the attention of dentists from across the country, several of whom offered to fix his crossbite and other problems. One of them even provided the singer with computer-generated renderings of how he'd look after a total “smile makeover” — and that was enough to convince him. Finally, after receiving a set of porcelain veneers and other dental work — all provided free of charge by the concerned dentist — Yamin has the smile he always dreamed of.
You don't have to be an American Idol finalist to appreciate the benefit of having a super smile — and it's never too late to get started! As Yamin found out, a “smile analysis” is the first step, and it's a critical part of the process. This is the time when you and your dentist get to know each other, and begin talking about what kind of a look you want to achieve, and what you should realistically expect.
But it can be tough to express in words exactly what your idea of a perfect smile looks like. Are the teeth completely regular in alignment and “Hollywood white?” A little bit asymmetrical and more natural-looking — or something in between? And exactly how would that look on you? Fortunately, we have a variety of ways to help you make those decisions.
One is computer-generated images, like the ones that persuaded Yamin. Convenient and relatively easy to produce, they're a great way to preview possible changes before a single tooth is touched. However, some people may find it hard to picture their new smile from different angles and in different lights. If you'd like a better representation, it's possible to produce a 3-D model of the proposed work before it's done. This can let you truly visualize your new smile in a realistic way.
If you need even more evidence before deciding, there's still more that can be done. Your teeth can be built up to their new contours with composite resin, a tooth-colored restoration material that can change tooth shape and size with relative ease. A related procedure, the “provisional restoration,” gives you a complete preview of the final work. When you're satisfied, the “temporary” materials are replaced with more permanent ones, like long-lasting porcelain veneers. Whichever method you choose, you'll be on your way to a better looking smile.
If you would like more information about a smile makeover, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design” and “Smile Design Enhanced with Porcelain Veneers.”