By Susan Braden
Although dentists hope that their work will last a lifetime, in reality, restorative appliances such as crowns, bridges, dentures, and fillings will often require repairs or replacements over time. Amidst the chewing, grinding, biting, prying, and just plain accidents that involve many people’s teeth, it is very difficult for most to keep restorative dental work in place over the course of a lifetime.
This need for expensive filling, bridge, and crown replacements makes cheap dental care much more difficult to find. Do you know that Americans spend over $5 billion each year to repair failed or worn down restorative dentistry? Given this large expense, cheaper repair of failed fillings and other restorative work is a necessity for most patients. A developing nanocomposite technology, however, may be a help.
One restorative procedure which commonly has to be reworked is a filling. Fillings are designed to not only fill cavities, but to prevent them from spreading – resin-based composite ones are typically equipped with an anti-decay agent.
Resin-based composites contain a delicate balance of this agent and the material which keeps the filling solid. If too large a proportion of the agent is used, your filling will not be as rigid, and may end up falling out overtime. However, if not enough of the agent is used, decay can continue spreading behind the cavity, further into your tooth. If this decay continues to grow, it will eventually spread outside the size of your filling, which will also cause it to fall out. For the longest-lasting, most cost-effective treatment possible, there needs to be a way to make a natural-looking filling more secure, while keeping it resistant to decay.
Amalgams, the silver-colored fillings dentists traditionally used until recent years, are becoming less and less popular due to their unnatural appearance and concerns about possible Mercury poisoning. However, their two key advantages are increased durability and cheaper cost compared to resin-based composites.
In order to cut down the cost of having fillings reworked, there is an emerging technology which may present a happy medium between the strength of amalgam fillings and the appeal of resin-composite ones. This technology involves a way to create anti-decay particles much smaller than originally possible in resin-composite fillings. Since these “nanocomposite” particles can be a fraction of the size of traditional anti-decay particles, less material is needed to create the same amount of cavity coverage.
If these nanocomposites are used to enhance or replace resin-based composites, the use of more concentrated and powerful anti-decay material will mean stronger, longer lasting fillings. If this technology is placed on the market, patients may be able to receive good looking, strong composite fillings with a protective level of anti-decay agent. Due to more durable fillings, patients may be able to visit the dentist less. Fewer visits to your dental office may lead to cheap dental bills long-term. Although this new technology is not yet widely available, be on the lookout. If you have questions about the availability of nanocomposite fillings, you may want to check with your local dentists see when this new technology will be introduced to their offices.