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Turn Those Ugly Metal Fillings Beautiful White

Did you ever wish your teeth would look like they used to, before they were filled with all of those silver-mercury fillings? Many patients have found that wish a reality, with a magic wand waved in one visit changing those dull, ugly unnatural looking metal fillings to flawless, white teeth. And the magical filling material that makes it all happen is composite resin.

Composites are some of the strongest materials in use today. These versatile materials are used in the aircraft industry to fabricate the bodies of ultra-fast jet fighters, by NASA in the design components for space vehicles and satellites as well as by dentistry for tooth filling material. When used for teeth, composite is a tooth-colored mixture of specialized polymer resins filled with microscopic ceramic particles. Composites are used to fill cavities, and for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth.

How is a composite placed?
Following the preparation of the tooth, we place the composite in layers, much as an artist or sculptor creates a perfect work of art. Once placed, a specialized blue light is used to harden each composite layer. When the process is finished, the composite goes through a final shaping and polishing to prevent staining and wear.

How long does it take to place a composite?
For a skilled dentist, it takes the same amount of time to place a composite filling as a silver-mercury filling. Placement time depends on the size and location of the cavity. Placement time also depends on the cosmetic needs of the particular tooth.

What are the advantages of composites?
Strength and esthetics are the main advantages. These materials are incredibly strong and have the ability to duplicate the strength of tooth structure. Because composites bond to the tooth to support the remaining tooth structure, it helps to prevent breakage and insulate the tooth from excessive temperature changes. In addition, we can blend shades to create a color identical to that of the actual tooth.

What's involved?
First, your dentist will determine whether you are a candidate for tooth bleaching and what type of bleaching system would provide the best results. The best results are achieved with an in-office bleaching system using a laser or plasma arc light while you sit in the dental chair. Sometimes, best results are seen after two or three in-office sessions. This is sometimes done in combination with dentist-supervised at-home bleaching and requires impressions of your mouth.

The dentist or hygienist will then fabricate a mouthguard appliance for you. The mouthguard is custom made for your mouth and is lightweight so that it can be worn comfortably while you are awake or sleeping. The mouthguard is so thin that you should even be able to talk and work while wearing it. Along with the mouthguard, you'll receive the bleaching materials. You'll be given instructions on how to wear the mouthguard and use the bleaching materials with it. The newest at home bleaching systems recommend bleaching your teeth for two individual 15 minute sessions per day for two weeks.

How long does it last?
Lightness should last from one to five years, depending on your personal habits such as smoking and drinking coffee and tea. At this point you may choose to get a touch up. This procedure may not be as costly because you can probably still use the same mouthguard. The retreatment time also is much shorter than the original treatment time.

How does it work?
The active ingredient in most of the whitening agents is carbamide peroxide. When water contacts this white crystal, the release of hydrogen peroxide lightens the teeth.

Is it safe? Are there any side effects?
Several studies, during the past five years, have proven bleaching to be safe and effective. The American Dental Association has granted its seal of approval to some tooth bleaching products. Some patients may experience slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will resolve when the treatment ends.


What are realistic expectations?
No one can really predict how much lighter your teeth will become. Every case is different. The success rate depends upon the type of stain involved and your compliance. Bleaching can provide a very dramatic improvement in your smile when done properly under a professionals care. Bleaching does not lighten artificial materials such as white fillings, bonding, porcelain, or crowns. However, once your smile has whitened, you can have these drab artificial fillings resurfaced to match their new whiter surroundings.

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