The Varying Benefits Of Tooth Material Used In Cosmetic Dentistry

The Varying Benefits Of Tooth Material Used In Cosmetic Dentistry

As cosmetic dentistry continues to grow, the technology and materials used for cosmetic procedures continue to advance and improve. Read on to learn about the materials utilized to help patients shape their smiles.


Dental Fillings, Crowns & Bridges

Porcelain is used for a wide array of procedures within cosmetic dentistry — including the dental filling. In the past, fillings were often made with a metal and only occasionally covered with porcelain. These days we can make fillings from porcelain entirely.

This is an improvement in aesthetics as porcelain is much less noticeable than a silver metal filling. Metal fillings can be spotted even if they are placed in the back of your mouth. Plus, some are concerned about the level of mercury in in metal fillings. Porcelain fillings avoids that issue completely. Porcelain, which is sometimes referred to as ceramic, is also used in crowns and bridges.


One of the most popular uses of porcelain is in veneers. The porcelain is shaped into wafer thin shells that cover your teeth. Porcelain veneers are typically about .5 to .6 millimeters thick and that some types like Lumineers can be even thinner!

Porcelain is a fantastic material for veneers because it looks very natural due to its translucent and opaque qualities. Porcelain has a way of reflecting light that other materials can not mimic. It is also easier to match the color of your natural tooth with porcelain. While other materials only allow us to create one flat shade, porcelain can be created in gradient tones. This is helpful as each of your teeth can be a slightly different color naturally.

The disadvantage of porcelain is that it can be more brittle than other materials. The material’s high concentration of glass particles makes it less durable and more likely to be chipped. One way we solve this problem is by reinforcing porcelain by infusing it with metal or overlaying it on metal. When we do this we are trying to balance the strength of metal with the natural translucence of porcelain.

While this combination of durability and aesthetics is highly effective, it can have complications. Sometimes the metal beneath the porcelain can begin to show through the porcelain, creating a dark line or shadow at your gum line.


Resin has been around in the dental world since the 1970s. It can be used in several different forms and is valued for its strength and low solubility (not easily dissolved). In the past, resin was known for being susceptible to color changes during procedures, making it less desirable for cosmetic procedures. Chemists have since improved resin cement formulations to tackle that issue.

Resin Cement

We use resin cement to adhere your tooth to another material like porcelain or alloy. It is used in the placement of crowns, bridges and inlays/onlays. Inlays and onlays are sometimes referred to as “indirect fillings” and we use them when one of your teeth has a small amount of decay that doesn’t require a traditional filling. After removing the decay and cleaning the site, we lay resin composite on top of the affected area, securing it with dental cement.

In many types of resin cement, a bonding agent is also required. In the latest and greatest resin cement products, the formulation has been improved to require no bonding agent, thus an “all-in-one” product.

Resin Composite

Resin composite is used in veneers. The advantage of resin over porcelain is that less of your natural tooth structure needs to be removed. Resin veneers are also less expensive than porcelain veneers. Resin composite veneers cost about $250 per teeth while porcelain veneers typically cost somewhere between $900 to $2,500 per tooth. (This, of course, is an estimate. If you’re looking into having this procedure done, we can give you a more accurate estimate once you’ve come in for a consultation.)

The catch is that resin veneers typically needs to be replaced every 5 to 7 years, while porcelain veneers can last 15+ years.

Resin composite can also be used to fix small cosmetic imperfections. We use it to fill in chips, cracks and gaps.


Of all the materials used in cosmetic dentistry, metals have been around the longest.

Fillings, Crowns & Bridges

For many decades, metals were the only material available for fillings.

Metals including gold, nickel, zirconium and palladium are most often used for crowns and bridges. They are extremely strong and durable. Because the color is darker, metal dental work is typically reserved for the back portions of your mouth.

Dental Implants

Titanium is a type of metal that is used in dental implants. It is highly biocompatible and causes few complications. It is also resistant to corrosion.

Metal Allergies & Other Concerns

One of the potential downsides of metal is that some people are allergic to it. The most common metals that cause an allergic reaction are nickel, beryllium, chromium and nickel. Other types of metals typically have very low allergic reaction rates. Most of the time patients can tell they are allergic from inflammation around the site of the dental work. We can also perform a patch test to see if you are allergic before we begin any treatments involving metallics.

According to the British Dental Journal, women tend to have higher rates of metal allergy and Dear Doctor reports that approximately 5 percent of the population experiences allergic reactions to these metallics.

There are other concerns that have caused some practitioners and patients to opt for non-metal cosmetic solutions. These issues/concerns include: .

  • Possible mercury exposure.
  • Expansion and contraction of metal or amalgam due to temperature changes.
  • Chewing pressure that leads to metal fatigue.
  • Cracks and fractures in the natural tooth material due to force of metal.

No matter what cosmetic dental procedure we are performing, we also take the time to ask ourselves “Is this the right material for the job? Is this the best way to do this?” If you have any questions or concerns about the materials used in your dental work, please let us know! We love sharing our knowledge with patients and making them part of the process.

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