Direct restorations refers to fillings that are placed in your teeth during a single visit such as amalgam (silver colored) fillings and composite (tooth colored) fillings. Indirect restorations usually take more than a single visit because the restoration is made in a dental laboratory and include crowns, caps, inlays, and onlays.
Advances in dental materials and techniques have given you and your dentist more options for direct dental restorations of damaged or decayed teeth. Most traditional materials such as amalgam and gold still have a place in modern dentistry due to their lower cost, strength, and durability. Future developments will likely result in even better materials with attributes that rival their traditional counterparts.
Choosing the right material for dental fillings depends on various factors including the patient’s oral health, the strength of the tooth after the decayed material has been removed, where the filling will be placed, and the chewing load that will be placed on the tooth.
Amalgam is the silver colored material that has been used for dental fillings by dentists for over 100 years. It’s durability and relatively low cost assures that it will continue to be a popular material for restorations, especially in back teeth where the silver color will not be as obvious. Amalgam is strong and can tolerate high chewing loads which makes it a great choice for molars. The silver color can be a negative for many patients, especially for front teeth that will show when the patient smiles or talks. Amalgam can also be sensitive to hot or cold.
Composite fillings are made from a resin mixture and are dyed to match your tooth color. They are not as strong or as durable as amalgam, but they are an attractive option for front teeth that are visible when a patient speaks or smiles. These teeth have lower chewing loads which makes composite fillings ideal. Composite fillings take a little longer to place and are usually a little more expensive than amalgam.
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