Dental Materials: Porcelain vs. Composite


dental filling materialsIf you have recently been to the dentist for treatment, chances are you have been thrown into a whirlwind of information about dental materials. You’re likely confused on what might be the best decision for you. What are the common materials used for standard procedures? What are the benefits of each? For the specifics on some of these questions, and how they apply to you, you will likely have to consult with your dentist, however, we want to clear up some of the confusion you may have so that you can make the most informed decision concerning your future treatment.

The Basics

There are specific brands, models and methods of placing each material, but in general most restorative materials fall into the following categories:

Amalgam – This is a mixture of several metals, ~50% mercury, ~25% silver, other trace materials. This continues to be the most common dental filling material despite the mercury content controversy.

Composite – This is a mixture of glass like particles and a plastic resin material that are most often hardened by light.

Porcelain – You need to be aware that some refer to ceramic glass as porcelain. Porcelain is a ceramic material with a clay (kaolin) base that is heated and cooled to maximize its strength.

Why one over the other?

Your natural materials are the best, which means that by restoring your teeth you are sacrificing something in relation to your original tooth structure. Duration of materials in the mouth depends largely on their make-up. The coefficient of thermal expansion of each material plays a key part in its ability to last while still providing quality performance. As the materials experience temperature and pressure changes, they have the potential to expand/compact or even transfer forces to the surrounding materials. Over extended periods of time this may, depending on the material, cause it to change or break down surrounding structures. Here is a summary of the mentioned categories:

Amalgam – This is a sturdy structure and the material can last quite awhile. Unfortunately because the coefficient of thermal expansion of amalgam is different than that of enamel, it can transfer forces from chewing or biting to the test of the tooth, potentially causing the tooth to break. This does not bond with the tooth itself which can lead to the development of decay below the filling itself.

Composite – This material also differs in its coefficient of thermal expansion. It does claim to bond with the enamel, hopefully eliminating the potential for decay between the enamel and the restoration structure. Under compression this material distorts different than enamel, which in our experience has been seen to break the bond between the restoration and the enamel structure. Typically these materials last 7-10 years. If these need to be replaced often, you loose more and more of your tooth with each replacement.

Porcelain – This material is the closest in its behavior to that of enamel that is currently being used in the dental field. It really is the best in the world. Because it behaves similarly to enamel, the bond between the enamel and the porcelain does not break down. It maintains the health of the tooth by avoiding the transfer of forces to the rest of the tooth. Porcelain is strongest when it is in compression making it the ideal material for most dental purposes.

With a holistic approach of conserving the most natural tooth structure as possible, porcelain is the recommended materials for many tooth restorations.

Contact us to set up an appointment to get the best holistic services available.