If you have tooth decay, you want to get it treated so it’s healthy and looks good. You don’t want a smile that shows everyone you have had decay, and may even look worse than the cavities themselves. And most of all, you don’t want fillings that may be dangerous or damaging to your teeth. Metal fillings are unattractive and potentially unhealthy, but there is another option. White fillings are more attractive and can actually restore strength to your teeth.
Benefits of White Fillings
White fillings are the most common reconstructive dentistry procedure. They are a newer approach to treating tooth decay than metal amalgam fillings, which are nearly 200 years old. They use a better technology for filling cavities and give results that are better in many ways, such as:
- More attractive results
- Color matching means no one will know you have fillings
- Don’t oxidize and turn black
- Bond directly to teeth, creating tight seal
- Insulate teeth to reduce sensitivity to heat and cold
- Don’t cause heat cracking of teeth
- Don’t allow percolation of fluid into teeth
- Can strengthen teeth
These benefits mean that white fillings are not just more attractive, they’re healthier for your teeth. Metal fillings are essentially stuffed into a prepared hole, so they don’t create a good seal with your natural teeth. This can allow material to seep into your teeth. The problem is made worse when you drink cold liquids. The liquids cause the metal filling material to shrink faster than the tooth enamel and dentin. When it does, it creates a space around the filling that water can get into, allowing bacteria and contamination to penetrate into the tooth. This is described as percolation.
And when you drink hot liquids, the problem of metal fillings may be even worse. Because the metal filling wants to expand faster than the tooth material, so it can cause the tooth to crack. The cracks are tiny, but they can be the beginning of significant damage to the tooth.
Another concern with metal fillings is that they contain mercury, which is known to be toxic. The American Dental Association (ADA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) both support the claim that mercury amalgam fillings are safe. The evidence is mixed. We know that mercury from fillings migrates through the body, and many people just prefer to avoid even a potential risk. White fillings do not contain mercury.
Two Kinds of White Fillings
When considering your filling options, it’s important to understand that there are two kinds of white fillings we can use: resin-based composites or ceramic inlays and onlays.
Resin-based composites are essentially a plastic material that is embedded with ceramic particles for strength. It begins as a soft putty that can be placed into a prepared tooth. The plastic attaches to your tooth, creating a good seal. Then the composite is hardened with a curing light, which causes the plastic to turn hard. The filling is then polished for an attractive luster. For deep cavities it may be necessary to place multiple layers of composite and harden them, but even then the process is very quick so you don’t need a long visit for a filling.
Ceramic inlays and onlays are really the optimal filling material. They are made of advanced ceramic materials, like all-ceramic crowns. This means they have the luster of natural teeth, and they are strong enough to restore strength to your damaged tooth. They can be made using our CEREC system, so you can get your final filling the same day. Though it takes a little longer than a resin-based composite, this type of filling is the longest-lasting one available, and the most attractive.