When do I need a crown instead of a bigger filling?

Teeth are often restored using silver or composite fillings.  However, when too much of a tooth's structure is removed to support a filling, a crown or "cap" may be needed.  A crown may be needed:

  • Endodontic treated tooth (Root Canal)
  • Attach Bridges
  • Cover badly shaped or discolored teeth
  • Restore a tooth when it is unable to support a large filling

A crown essentially covers a tooth to restore it to its natural shape and size.  This permanent covering fits over your original tooth to strengthen or improve the appearance of the tooth.  Fitting a crown generally requires at least two visits to the dentist's office.

What is resin composite filling?

Resin composite fillings are made of ceramic and plastic compounds.  Because resin mimic the appearance of natural teeth, these fillings have been used in front teeth for years.  When they first appeared, however, resin compounds were not strong enough to be used in back teeth, where high-pressure grinding and chewing require greater durability.  In the past 10 years, technology has improved enough to allow the use of resin material in posterior or back teeth.

White composite fillings vs. Amalgam fillings

Since composite fillings bond to the tooth, they restore most of the original strength of the tooth. Even though Amalgam fillings are stronger and more durable they weaken the teeth and make them more susceptible to breakage.  Composites require less removal of the tooth structure.  Especially with new cavities, the size of the hole made for the filling can be dramatically smaller with composites. The vast majority of today's dental patients will choose the white fillings.  In the view of many, the mercury in amalgam is viewd as toxic even though it has not been proven to be harmful in a solid phase. The feeling is that the white composite represents a more advanced technology.  Aditionally, composite is more esthetic.  For all these reasons, the public is demanding white. With today's technology, composite fillings can easily withstand the stress required to serve in a back tooth.

What do I do if my tooth is loose or knocked out?

If the tooth is loose, but still in the socket, leave it in place and see your dentist immediately.  If it has been knocked out, pick it up by the crown, not the root. Gently rinse, but do not scrub it or attempt to dry it off.  If possible  gently push it into the socket or place it in a glass of milk.  Do not let the tooth dry out! Time is of the essence; See a dentist within 30 minutes.

Can my teeth be whitened?

For most of us, our natural teeth are a shade of white. Some of us have more yellow, more brown or gray than others. These different colors arise from the internal parts of the tooth. The outer layer of the tooth is made of enamel which is translucent. The inner layer is called dentin and ranges in color from yellow to brown.
Surface stains vs Deep stains

The enamel or outer layer of the tooth can become discolored by eating or drinking foods like coffee, mustard, tomato, wine, and tea. Over time, these foods and other proteins can build up on the outside of the teeth and cause discoloration. They may even be absorbed into the enamel. To remove these stains, you can brush regularly or consult with your dentist about removing stains with bleaching products.

Not all teeth can be whitened

Whitening is not for everyone. Existing Veneers, crowns or fillings won't change color. Some teeth are so badly stained from decay, medication, or flouride that a different solution is necessary. For those teeth, veneers or bonding may be the only way to change their appearance. Consult with your dentist about the best way to improve the appearance of your teeth. It is important that the dentist determines that your teeth won't be harmed by the whitening process because of decay or gum disease.