A tooth filling (or “restoration”) is a treatment used to restore a tooth, or to “fill a hole” that has been damaged due to decay. One of several different materials can be used to restore the tooth to its normal function and shape, among the most common being silver fillings and white fillings.
Also known as amalgam fillings, these have routinely been used to restore teeth. They have been known to last a long time and are less expensive then other types of filling. An amalgam is a combination of metals – including silver, tin, copper and mercury. As a durable material, amalgam fillings are a good choice for large cavities, particularly in the back teeth which endure a lot of force. These fillings can often take less time to place and they harden quickly; therefore they are suited to areas that are difficult for the dentist to keep dry.
There are some disadvantages associated with silver fillings. Due to their colour, they are less aesthetically pleasing than tooth-coloured fillings, especially if the tooth filling is near the front of the mouth, making it highly visible. They are also less conservative, meaning that more tooth structure needs to be removed to place and retain the filling. The mercury content in amalgam restorations, and hence their safety or otherwise, has been a controversial topic, but you can be assured that the FDA has declared the level of mercury in amalgam fillings to be safe for adults and for children above the age of six.
White fillings, also known as composite resin fillings, are designed to match the colour of natural teeth. They are typically made up of a powdered glass and acrylic resin. Composite resin fillings have become increasingly popular as they are now more affordable than previously and are a superior alternative to amalgam fillings in many cases. Not only can your dentist blend shades to match your natural teeth but these fillings are also more conservative than amalgam fillings and chemically bond to the tooth surface. On the down side, they usually cost more and characteristically don’t last as long as silver fillings. They are also “technique sensitive” and can take a little longer for the dentist to place.
How to choose
The choice between a silver and a white filling depends on a number of factors. These include aesthetics, the extent and location of the cavity, your finances and the recommendation of your dentist. If you suspect you may need a filling and would like to discuss it with a dentist, contact the the team at your local Core Dental to make an appointment today.
Dr Stephanie McManus
BBiomed (Melb), DDS (Melb)
General Dental Care