In cosmetic dentistry, the term restoration is used to describe the repair of a missing or damaged tooth. Restorations are either classified as direct or indirect. Direct restorations are repairs made inside the mouth in the form of fillings while indirect fillings are developed in a dental laboratory before being affixed to the tooth or the supporting structure of the tooth in a separate procedure. What is the best option for you depends on the unique situation you are facing but your personal preferences may also be considered in the decision-making.
With direct fillings, all the work is developed and completed within the mouth. The procedure which is popularly referred to as a filling involves placing of a malleable substance into a cleaned and prepared cavity. The material is hardened to restore the structure and the appearance of the damaged tooth.
Direct fillings are a conservative method to repair a tooth and the least invasive. Three types of materials are used for direct fillings which are silver amalgam, composite resin, and glass ionomer. Another variety of direct filling is dental bonding which is a putty-like bonding agent that is used to repair cracks, reduce gaps between the teeth, and reshape teeth. The bonding agent is shaped and colored to match the aesthetics of the tooth before being dried in the mouth with ultraviolet light.
Silver amalgam fillings consist of 50 percent mercury and 50 percent metals like silver, zinc, copper, and tin. These are affordable, easy to install and have exceptional strength and durability but are not aesthetically pleasing.
Composite resin fillings are made from synthetic materials and are extremely popular because they can be matched to the color of the tooth. However, these are expensive than silver amalgam and lack the durability to require replacements every five years.
Glass ionomer fillings are developed by mixing powder of silicate glass and polyacrylic acid to form a cream-colored bonding agent that is hardened. These fillings are weak and primarily used on baby teeth and non-biting surfaces but are moderately priced and contain fluoride that can prevent tooth decay.
Indirect fillings are developed outside the mouth. Examples of these fillings include veneers, bridges, crowns, implants, inlays, and Onlays. The term indirect fillings often refer to a permanent or semipermanent dental fixture instead of a removable one as many people believe dentures are also a form of indirect filling.
Indirect fillings tend to be costly because the restorations require more work. However, they can increase the aesthetic appearance of your teeth by providing you a stable and long-lasting solution when the damage is severe or extensive.
When you visit your dentist with a cavity he or she will be administering in you some local anesthesia to numb the area because your comfort will be their top priority. Thereafter they will be scraping off the decayed part of the tooth before sterilizing the area and preparing it for the filling.
The dentist will then fill the cavity with whichever material you and your dentist have decided upon before buffing and refurbishing the surface of the entire tooth. The whole procedure will require about an hour including the time taken to get x-rays before the procedure.
Indirect fillings like inlays are similar to direct fillings but instead of using malleable materials within the mouth they are created from a dental impression using materials such as gold, porcelain, or resin composite. The molded inlay which is similar in appearance to a natural tooth is then bonded into place. Inlays are not prone to shrinkage as fillings are and are usually suggested when decay or fracture is extensive. An extensive version of inlays is Onlays. Instead of restoring the area of the decay or fracture an onlay just replaces bits of tooth that have broken off. Onlays are different from crowns because the only cover a part of the tooth and do not encase the entire tooth.
As can be seen, a filling inserted by the dentist is to repair a cavity after removing any decay in the tooth. An indirect filling is beneficial to cover portions of damaged and decayed teeth and is prepared in a dental laboratory. Fillings are placed to restore a damaged tooth because of decay and indirect fillings are beneficial for improving the appearance of the smile. Both procedures, however, are ensuring that the tooth is well cared for against tooth decay.