Dental fillings are used when your teeth are damaged by oral bacteria, creating cavities in the teeth, also called caries. The goal of fillings is to stop decay, protect your teeth, and retain the strength, function, and appearance of your teeth. Gone are the day when dental fillings were silver and made of a potentially toxic mix of metals. Today, fillings can be made from attractive and biocompatible materials, such as composite resins and advanced ceramics.

If you need a dental filling and are looking for a dentist in Rochester that offers attractive, healthy tooth-colored fillings, please call (585) 244-3337 or email us for an appointment at Contemporary Dentistry.

Beautiful Rochester, NY woman with dental fillings

What Causes Dental Cavities

Dental cavities are caused by parasitic oral bacteria that have colonized your mouth. These oral bacteria feed on carbohydrates, especially sugars. When they eat sugars, they excrete acids, which attack your tooth enamel. As your tooth enamel gets eroded, it creates holes, or cavities, which can shelter bacteria and trap food particles that feed them.

Dental cavities are different from dental erosion. Dental erosion occurs when your mouth is acidic everywhere. This can occur when you get dehydrated, drink acidic beverages like soda, or vomit. Dental erosion removes enamel from all your teeth, resulting in widespread, serious damage.

Your saliva contains minerals to try to fight the processes of decay and erosion, but the decay and erosion processes can overwhelm the remineralization.

How Dental Fillings Work

Dental fillings reverse the damage done by oral bacteria. They literally fill the hole that was left by the decay, which prevents bacteria and food from getting stuck in the cavity.

First, we will remove all the weakened and damaged material around the cavity so that you have a strong foundation for the filling. What we do next depends on the type of filling we’re using.

There are two types of tooth-colored fillings that we can use. One is composite resin filling. This starts as a soft paste that can be spread into the cavity, then is hardened with a curing light that causes the resin to polymerize.

The other type of filling is a ceramic filling, sometimes called an inlay or onlay. This type of filling is custom-crafted to match the cavity. Ceramic dental fillings are more attractive than any other kind of filling, and they’re also more durable. To design a ceramic filling, we start by taking an impression of the cavity, which is done digitally these days rather than using the old impression material.

Once we have the filling in place, we will polish it, check the fit to ensure it’s created a tight seal, and test occlusion—how well your teeth fit together for chewing and other functions.

Why Tooth-Colored Fillings Are Better Than Metal

Metal amalgam fillings have been used for over 150 years. They date back to a time when harmful substances like arsenic, lead, and, yes, mercury were regularly used in medicine. They contain mercury, which is toxic, and we’ll talk about more in the importance of metal-free dentistry.

But these metal amalgam fillings also have potential problems. First, they’re unattractive. Not only do they start out as highly visible metal color, they often turn black, so that they look as bad as or worse than the cavity they filled.

Metal amalgam fillings also don’t bond to your tooth, so they allow penetration around the edges of the filling, resulting in the potential for secondary decay. Penetration around the filling can increase whenever you drink a cold liquid. As they cool, metal amalgam dental fillings contract more than your natural tooth material. This creates space around the filling, allowing liquid to get in.

But what’s even worse is what happens under the influence of heat. Then the filling expands faster than your tooth, causing cracking around the filling.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of tooth-colored dental fillings in Rochester or want to replace your metal fillings, please call (585) 244-3337 or email us for an appointment at Contemporary Dentistry.