Composite fillings are a mixture of glass or quartz filler in a resin medium that produces a tooth-colored filling. They are sometimes referred to as composites or filled resins. Composite fillings provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small-to-mid size restorations that need to withstand moderate chewing pressure. Less tooth structure is removed when the dentist prepares the tooth, and this may result in a smaller filling than that of an amalgam. Composites can also be “bonded” or adhesively held in a cavity, often allowing the dentist to make a more conservative repair to the tooth.
The cost is moderate and depends on the size of the filling and the technique used by the dentist to place it in the prepared tooth. It generally takes longer to place a composite filling than what is required for an amalgam filling. Composite fillings require a cavity that can be kept clean and dry during filling and they are subject to stain and discoloration over time.
The pulp, or soft inner tissue, is important during the tooth's development. Once a tooth is fully mature, the tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth is nourished by tissues surrounding it. The pulp is normally surrounded and protected by a layer of dentin.
Above the gumline, the dentin is protected by a layer of enamel; below the gum-line the dentin is covered by cementum. When a crack or cavity destroys these protective layers, the pulp is exposed to irritants and bacteria in your mouth. This can result in inflammation then infection, and, eventually, an abscess. Periodontal (gum) disease or a severe blow to the tooth can also damage the pulp. Endodontic therapy removes the damaged pulp and usually the tooth returns to a healthy condition.
If an abscess was present before treatment, the healing process may take up to two years.
Dental Crowns and Caps
As far as a dental restoration goes, crowns and caps are used synonymously.
Crowns are synthetic caps, usually made of a material like porcelain, placed on the top of a tooth.
Crowns are typically used to restore a tooth's function and appearance following a restorative procedure such as a root canal. When decay in a tooth has become so advanced that large portions of the tooth must be removed, crowns are often used to restore the tooth.
Crowns are also used to attach bridges, cover implants, prevent a cracked tooth from becoming worse, or an existing filling is in jeopardy of becoming loose or dislocated. Crowns also serve an aesthetic use, and are applied when a discolored or stained tooth needs to be restored to its natural appearance.
A tooth is usually reduced in size to accommodate a crown. An impression is taken and a cast is made of the existing teeth. The impression is sent to a special lab, which manufactures a custom-designed crown. In some cases, a temporary crown is applied until the permanent crown is ready. Permanent crowns are cemented in place.
Crowns are sometimes confused with veneers, but they are quite different. Veneers are typically applied only to relatively small areas.
Caring For Your Crowns
With proper care, a good quality crown could last many years. It is very important to floss in the area of the crown to avoid excess plaque or collection of debris around the restoration.