In years past, most dentists used amalgam fillings to fill the space left after decay was removed from a tooth. This was the unsightly but highly recognizable silver metal-looking material that was easy to spot on anyone that had ever experienced one or more cavities in their mouth. Thankfully, porcelain fillings are increasingly becoming the “go-to” option for tooth restoration due to the fact that porcelain provides a number of benefits over amalgam, as well as other filling materials.
The most obvious benefit of porcelain as a material for filling teeth is the fact that dental fillings made from this material are indistinguishable from natural, healthy teeth. During the filling procedure, the porcelain material is color-matched to the natural color of surrounding teeth so that once a tooth or teeth are filled, it is not easy to see where the filling starts or end in comparison to the rest of the tooth. For this reason alone, many patients often request porcelain fillings when they need to have their teeth filled.
The aesthetic benefits are so substantial that some people even decide to have existing amalgam fillings replaced with porcelain just so they no longer have to see the silver fillings in their mouth. Once this is done, it looks like the person no longer has fillings in their mouth, which creates a much more attractive smile.
Composite resin is another material used to fill teeth that can provide the same aesthetic benefits as porcelain fillings. The primary difference is that porcelain is stronger and more durable than composite. It is also more resistant to staining. The drawbacks of porcelain, however, compared to composite resin are that the fillings made from porcelain are more expensive.
When it comes to strength and durability, virtually no material beats porcelain. As mentioned, it is stronger and more durable than composite fillings, which generally last about 5 – 10 years. Amalgam can be expected to last about 10 – 15 years. In contrast, porcelain can last 15 – 20 years or more. The lifespan of these types of fillings can offset the higher initial cost because other types of fillings will need to be replaced sooner and more often, which will wind up negating any cost difference in the long run.
Another benefit of porcelain as compared to amalgam is in the safety of the materials that are being placed in your mouth. Amalgam is comprised of a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper and mercury. The inclusion of mercury in these fillings has come under much scrutiny in recent years and many dentists have opted to stop offering these types of fillings to patients due to the potential risks of mercury. A small percentage of people are also allergic to mercury.
Porcelain fillings provide another benefit over amalgam restorations. Fillings made from amalgam can experience small cracks and fissures, which can lead to further decay in the tooth even the presence of a filling. Another issue, which is relatively rare but that can occur, is that amalgam may expand and contract more than natural tooth material in the presence of hot and cold, which can cause a higher incidence of cracks in the tooth itself.
There are many benefits to porcelain fillings, especially in comparison to amalgam and also when compared to composite resin, even though the latter provides the same aesthetic benefits. The only major drawback to this type of filling material is the cost, although the superior strength and durability of the filling material may offset the higher initial cost over time due to the diminished need for repair or replacement of the filling.
For more information about the benefits of porcelain fillings, contact Gentle Dental at 718-461-0100.