Tooth Colored Fillings
Tooth colored fillings, also called white fillings, are dental fillings that restore and mimic the natural appearance of tooth structure. In addition to restoring teeth that have fractured or decayed, tooth colored fillings may also be used cosmetically to change the size, color and shape of teeth. This quality is particularly useful in closing gaps between teeth; repairing chipped teeth and making teeth appear to be more straight or even.
Tooth colored fillings were first introduced to the American public in the mid 1960’s. Since that time tooth colored filling materials have undergone continual improvements in durability, aesthetics and material handling. The most versatile and widely used tooth colored filling today is composite resin filling. A composite is a material in which filler particles are encased in and bound together by a hard matrix material. For composite resin fillings a fluid matrix of an acrylic, called BIS-GMA, is hardened around glass filler particles to form composite resin. Trace metals (e.g. cobalt, gold and copper) give color to the glass while zirconium and titanium oxides add opacity.
Tooth colored composite fillings are chemically bonded to teeth. For this reason, the placement of white fillings does not always require numbing the area being restored. Numbing (anesthetizing) the area is often required if tooth decay has progressed beneath the enamel layer and into the underlying dentin layer which surrounds the nerve of the tooth. Once decay is removed, the tooth is cleaned and a primer (weak acid) is applied to the area being restored. The primer opens pores in the enamel and dentin. A bonding agent is then flowed into the open pores and cured. Curing prepares the bonding agent to adhere to the tooth colored filling material. The filling material is then placed inside the tooth. After shaping the tooth colored filling material to resemble the natural anatomy of your tooth it is hardened by curing with a strong curing light. Once the white filling hardens, your bite will be checked to make sure your teeth fit together properly. If the tooth filling extends into the space between your teeth your dentist will also make sure you can floss between your teeth properly. Adjustments will be made if necessary followed by smoothing and polishing of your new filling.