Dental fillings have been used as an effective dental treatment for years, beginning life as a mercury-based dental amalgam (silver) first used in the 19th century.
Fillings are recommended as an effective treatment option for several reasons. The most likely being to repair cavities in the teeth caused by tooth decay to save the tooth.
Here, we explore dental fillings, the reason why they are required and whether white dental fillings should be favoured over amalgam.
Why would I need a filling?
There are several reasons why your dentist may recommend a filling. They can be used to treat:
- A cavity – if a tooth is decaying, the decay needs to be removed, treated and the tooth then restored with a dental filling.
- A fractured tooth – a trauma to the tooth, such as an accident or from biting on hard food or objects can cause a tooth to fracture or chip. A dentist may recommend a composite filling to treat and restore the fractured tooth. This is often the first choice restoration in this case if the fracture is not too extensive (in which case a more extensive restoration may be required, such as a veneer or crown).
- Small holes – there can be instances where small holes appear on the teeth. To prevent bacteria and food particles from entering the hole and leading to tooth decay, the holes can be filled.
- Tooth wear – When a tooth is worn a composite restoration or build up can restore the overall structure of the tooth in a non-invasive way. If a tooth is very broken down the composite build-up can form the core or foundation to support a crown if required.
- Discolouration – composite bonding can also be a way to veneer or mask discoloured teeth.
There are several types of dental filling available, these are:
- Dental amalgam – a silver colour which is made from a mixture of metals including mercury, silver, copper and tin.
- Composite – these are more widely known as tooth-coloured or white fillings and are excellent aesthetic and functional restorations when done well.
- Glass ionomer – another type of tooth coloured filling, which forms a chemical bond with the tooth but doesn’t have the same aesthetic properties as composite and is less durable. It’s often used in children’s teeth and as a medium-term temporary filling.
What is a white filling?
A white dental filling is made of a glass and resin mixture called a composite resin and is the first choice material for fillings today. The composite has excellent properties to match the natural appearance of teeth, but also bonds to the tooth structure to help reinforce the strength of a filled tooth.
Advantages of white fillings
There are several advantages to opting for a composite filling:
- Aesthetics – their natural colour matches your tooth and makes for an aesthetically pleasing finish, which may make you feel more confident in your smile if the filling is in a visible area.
- Adhesion –composite resins are bonded to the surface of the tooth, creating a better seal and also reinforcing the tooth structure.
- Less drilling – adhesive fillings are less invasive as they do not require mechanical retention in the tooth cavity like amalgam fillings do. Therefore, they don’t weaken the teeth like amalgam fillings do, so less drilling is required and the maximum amount of the tooth can be preserved.
How long do white fillings last?
The lifespan of your composite fillings will of course depend on how well they are done, i.e. the expertise of the dentist, and many factors such as:
- The structural condition of the tooth being restored
- The size of the filling
- Where the filling is positioned in your mouth
- How heavy your bite is
- How well you look after your teeth
- Dietary factors, such as your consumption of sugary snacks, sweets etc.
Our team will be able to advise on this in further detail during your consultation.
However, well-performed resin composite fillings typically last at least 10 years. For many of our patients here at the Windsor Centre for Advanced Dentistry, their fillings last much longer than that.
How much does a white filling cost?
The cost of a white filling will vary significantly from dentist to dentist. The price of a composite filling will also depend on its size, the type of material used within the white filling and the duration of the treatment.
Transform your smile today
If you’re not 100% happy with your smile, you owe it to yourself to do something about it. Contact us today to discuss the options for white fillings and discover the available treatments for your teeth.