As the old saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a tooth.”
Okay, that’s really just a nerdy dental saying that I just made up, but I can’t figure out why someone would want to skin a cat in the first place. Besides, I imagine PETA would come out and protest and save the cat before it lost even one hair. Then the cat would hire a lawyer and sue the potential skinner for emotional damages. That’s the world we live in.
Back to the subject at hand, what I mean is that there are a lot of different ways to “skin” or fix a broken tooth. Today, I’m going to limit my discussion to some of the most common materials used to fix decayed or broken teeth. There’s just not enough room in this paper to discuss all of the different ways to restore teeth. We’ve collected several thousands of pages on the subject and only scratched the surface. Let’s just agree that for each situation there are probably half a dozen correct answers to a broken tooth. Here are some of the more common materials used today.
Gold – The traditional “gold standard” of fixing teeth. Please excuse the bad joke. Gold can be used in almost any situation and is an excellent material. It is kind to opposing teeth and wears well over time. There are a few drawbacks to gold. First, it is more expensive than any of the other materials right now. Second, gold restorations tend to be more sensitive to hot and cold for a longer period of time because metal is a poor insulator. Finally, unless you’re a rap star, gold is not the most aesthetic restoration out there. All in all, a gold crown in the back of your mouth should last a long time.
Amalgam – These are the old school silver‐mercury fillings. There is a lot of controversy about the mercury in these fillings. I’ve seen research on both sides and I am personally undecided about their safety. Suffice to say, we don’t use this material in our office and we no longer have any silver fillings in our mouths. As Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
Composite – This is a broad term for the “plastic” tooth colored filling material that we use today. As I’ve written this article, there have probably been ten new composites introduced on the market. In other words, composite comes in many shapes, brands, and forms. This material can be used on any tooth and there are plenty of shades to match most situations. The drawback to this material is that it shrinks ever so slightly when cured so very large fillings must be layered. That just means it takes us a little more time. A plus is that composite fillings are more conservative of healthy tooth structure than the old silver mercury fillings.
Porcelain – Porcelain restorations are the cream of the crop when it comes to matching your natural teeth. Since porcelain is made of glass, it reflects light most closely to what God gave us. That makes for a beautiful smile. The drawbacks to porcelain restorations are that they must be made by a lab and that a little more tooth must be shaved down so that the porcelain is thick enough to be strong. Porcelain will also cost you a little more, as you’d expect for a Cadillac.
That’s a quick summary of some of the more common materials we use. Hope your still reading by now. Maybe next time I’ll bore you with…
Until next time, keep smiling.
‐Questions, suggestions, or comments can be sent to Drs. Parrish at ParrishDental@aol.com.