Porcelain Vs. Composite Filling

When you need a filling, it can be hard to know whether to choose based on cost, durability or appearance.

Aesthetics

Both porcelain and composite fillings are good options for conspicuous front teeth.Both porcelain and composite fillings are good options for conspicuous front teeth.
This question certainly comes into play when deciding between a porcelain and composite filling. Although both are considered good options, each type has its shortcomings as well.

Both porcelain and composite fillings are tinted to match the natural color of your teeth. They are usually used on front teeth, which are almost always visible, because they are designed to blend in with your natural tooth color. Both look natural and are not conspicuous like metal, or amalgam, fillings. Porcelain fillings can be tinted multiple shades for a more natural look. Overall, porcelain fillings look more like real teeth because they are more lustrous, as opposed to composite fillings, which have a flatter sheen. With either choice, a good cosmetic dentist is crucial to making the filling blend in and look natural. If you are very concerned with the cosmetic appearance of your filling, porcelain is preferable.

Durability

In terms of durability, both composite and porcelain fillings are sturdy, lasting between five and 15 years. Because composite fillings are applied in layers, they are prone to chipping and cracking. Overall, porcelain fillings tend to last longer than composite fillings as long as they properly bond with the tooth. If the porcelain is not thick enough, however, and cannot bond, it can crack easily under pressure. The other problem with porcelain fillings is that they are very hard and can damage surrounding teeth if their surface becomes rough.

Cost

Although porcelain fillings have their advantages, they are substantially more expensive than composite fillings. The tradeoff is that they last longer and may cost less than composite fillings over your lifetime. Both types are more expensive than metal fillings.

Filling Process

Composite fillings are made of glass or quartz mixed with resin. They are applied to the tooth in layers and cured with light or chemicals that help the filling harden and bond with the tooth. Porcelain fillings are sculpted based on a picture of your tooth and then cemented with dental glue. Both types of fillings generally take two or more visits to apply, which is why both are more expensive than metal fillings.

Considerations

Your choice of a porcelain or composite filling should be based on your financial situation, how important aesthetics are and how long you want the tooth to last. If you are filling a tooth that is less conspicuous such as a back molar, metal or amalgam fillings are cheaper and can last just as long under intense chewing or pressure. Keep in mind that if you go to a cosmetic dentist, the likely choice will be porcelain, because these dentists' priority is often the appearance of the tooth.

About the Author

Megan Martin has more than 10 years of experience writing for trade publications and corporate newsletters as well as literary journals. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa and a Master of Fine Arts in writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.