Lansing's Dental Discussion

Posts for tag: fillings

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
December 03, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: fillings  

Dental amalgam—also known as “silver fillings”—has been used for nearly a hundred years to treat cavities. There are several reasons why this mixture of metals has been the go-to material among dentists: Malleable when first applied, dental amalgam sets up into a durable dental filling that can take years of biting forces. What’s more, it’s stable and compatible with living tissue.

But there’s been growing concern in recent years about the safety of dental amalgam, with even some wondering if they should have existing fillings replaced. The reason: liquid mercury.

Mercury makes up a good portion of dental amalgam’s base mixture, to which other metals like silver, tin or copper are added to it in powder form. This forms a putty that can be easily worked into a prepared cavity. And despite the heightened awareness of the metal’s toxicity to humans, it’s still used in dental amalgam.

The reason why is that there are various forms of mercury and not all are toxic. The form making headlines is known as methylmercury, a compound created when mercury from the environment fuses with organic molecules. The compound builds up in the living tissues of animals, particularly large ocean fish, which have accumulated high concentrations passed up through their food chain.

That’s not what’s used in dental amalgam. Dentists instead use a non-toxic, elemental form of mercury that when set up becomes locked within the amalgam and cannot leach out. Based on various studies, treating cavities with it poses no health risks to humans.

This also means there’s no medical reason for having an existing silver fillings removed. Doing so, though, could cause more harm than good because it could further weaken the remaining tooth structure.

The most viable reason for not getting a dental amalgam filling is cosmetic: The metallic appearance of amalgam could detract from your smile. There are newer, more life-like filling options available. Your dentist, though, may still recommend dental amalgam for its strength and compatibility, especially for back teeth. It’s entirely safe to accept this recommendation.

If you would like more information on updating your dental work, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Holly A. Scott-Hetchler DDS, PC
July 22, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: fillings  

Find out what to do when your dental filling becomes damaged.

If you’ve ever had a cavity, then your Lansing dentist Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler likely removed the decay and painlessly filled your tooth to preserve your smile. While dental fillings are made from durable composite resin, sometimes fillings can become damaged. Find out what you should do if your filling cracks.

When will my dental filling need to be replaced?

While dental fillings are durable and designed to last for years, at some point they will need to be replaced. Teeth grinding, jaw clenching and wear and tear from eating can cause a dental filling to crack or fail, shortening its lifespan.

If your filling has cracked or become damaged, this allows bacteria to enter the tooth and potentially cause further damage. While these bacteria can be removed by brushing your teeth at least twice a day, they can be difficult to remove with your regular toothbrush. To prevent your tooth from developing more decay, you’ll need to see your Lansing dentist for treatment.

How do you know that your filling has begun to fail?

Sometimes you don’t, which is why keeping up with regular dental examinations are vitally important to detecting and treating problems with your dental fillings. If you see your Lansing dentist every six months for routine cleanings, we will typically be able to detect issues as soon as possible before other complications have set in. Even if you can’t tell that your filling is worn or cracked, we will be able to check the filling's integrity by using a special instrument. X-rays can also help to confirm whether a dental filling is still sound or not.

If your Lansing dentist finds that your dental filling has failed or decay on your X-ray, then the dental filling needs to be replaced. Do not put off getting a new filling! The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the crack will worsen or tooth pain will set in. Early detection is key!

Dealing with a dental problem that needs immediate repairs? Your Lansing dentist is at your service. Call Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler's office right away, and let us care for your damaged filling.

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
December 19, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: fillings  

Q: I’ve never heard these terms used in dentistry. What are they?
A: In the decorative arts, an inlay refers to a small piece of distinctive material that’s set into a larger matrix: a mother of pearl accent worked into the lid of a wooden box, for example. In dentistry, it means something similar: a filling (or restoration) that’s fabricated in a dental laboratory, and then set into a tooth in an area that has been damaged or lost.

Q: What’s the difference between inlays and onlays?
A: An inlay is made to fit in between the cusps (small points or ridges) of a back tooth (molar or premolar), and it covers only a small region of the biting surface of the tooth. If the restoration covers one or more of the cusps, it’s an onlay.

Q: Why would I need to have one of these restorations?
A: When a tooth has suffered damage (from decay or trauma, for example), and the affected area is too large to fill with a simple filling — but not large enough to need a full crown (cap) — then an inlay or onlay may be just right. Both of these procedures are considered “indirect fillings,” because the restoration itself is custom-fabricated in a laboratory and then bonded to the tooth in the dental office.

Q: What is the procedure for getting an inlay or onlay?
A: It’s similar to having a crown placed, in that it typically takes more than one office visit — yet an inlay or onlay involves less removal of tooth structure than a crown would require. On the first visit, after the area has been anesthetized (usually with a numbing shot), any decay is removed, and the tooth is shaped to receive the restoration. Next, a model of the tooth is made (either with putty or in digital form), and the tooth receives a temporary filling. The laboratory uses this model to create the actual inlay or onlay, which may take a few days; it is then permanently attached to the tooth on a second visit to the office. However, with today’s advances in CAD/CAM (computer aided design/ manufacturing) technology, some inlays or onlays can be made in the office and placed in the same visit.

Q: What else do I need to know about these tooth restorations?
A: Both inlays and onlays are strong and long-lasting restorations that need no more care than you would normally give your teeth: namely, regular brushing and flossing, and periodic checkups at our office. But because they don’t require the removal of a great deal of natural tooth material, they are considered relatively conservative treatments. After a thorough dental examination, we can recommend the type of tooth restoration that’s most appropriate in your individual circumstances.

If you’d like to find out more about inlays or onlays, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.”

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