What are white fillings?
White fillings are metal-free dental restorations that are used to repair tooth decay and minor fractures in your teeth. They look very natural as opposed to silver amalgam fillings, so most of the time people will have no clue they are actually there. There are two main types of white filling: composite resin and glass ionomer. The first is by far the most aesthetic of the two and comes in many shades that can be used to blend in with your natural tooth.
What are composite fillings?
Composite filings are made from glass and plastic compounds. They are what we in the profession refer to as white fillings because they are the most commonly used white filling material. Technology is improving all the time and they are going from strength to strength.
They are great for small to medium sized cavities- any larger and inlay, onlays or dental crowns should be considered.
In Australia, in private practice, these are what we predominantly use and they are suitable for restoring both front and back teeth. Whilst composite fillings can be matched very closely, they will over time stain and discolour somewhat. This can often be polished but the aesthetics do fade over time depending on what you are eating and drinking and if you smoke. The same thing happens to natural teeth, only they tend to be a little smoother- so get slightly less affected.
Composite fillings are good as they are bonded to your teeth. They are conservative in nature, only requiring removal of the decay if there is a cavity and just the freshening up of the surface if a chip or a fracture has occurred. They help support and reinforce the remaining tooth structure. Fillings are nearly always completed in a single visit and and the charge depends on the number of surfaces that the filling goes onto.
Studies show white fillings last slightly less than their silver counterparts at an average of around 8 years. There are many factors that affect how long a filling will last including the amount of supporting tooth, shape of the cavity, bite of the person, oral hygiene, if they grind their teeth, if teeth are missing, the technique used by the dentist, the type of composite and more!
What are glass ionomer fillings?
Glass ionomer fillings are made of acrylic and a certain type of glass material. They are available in different shades like composite but don’t blend in in quite the same way and colours can’t be mixed together. Their main benefit is that they act as a reservoir for fluoride, helping to protect your tooth from decay. Glass ionomer fillings don’t shrink in the same way that composite does but they are weaker and don’t wear as well. for this reason they tend to be used more for linings and topped with composite or as temporary restorations or as fillings in children or people who are very high risk of decay. They can also be useful in areas around the gum line or at the neck of the teeth where recession and toothbrush abrasion has occurred, assuming aesthetics are not critical in which case composite would be better.
What problems should I expect after getting white fillings?
You can get all the problems with white fillings that you can get with any other sort of filling. Sensitivity is a little more common and if the fillings are left slightly high, they are very unforgiving and need the dentist to adjust the bite. Some settle in a couple of days but if they don’t- then pop back to get it adjusted. Sensitivity when eating cold foods and drinks or sweets may occur but should settle pretty quickly. Sometimes, if the cavity is deep and near the sensitive tooth pulp, it is possible that you may experience pain after the filling. If it doesn’t settle, then sometimes a root canal treatment may be necessary to stop the pain and keep the tooth. If you experience anything out of the ordinary, or things aren’t improving, or getting worse, give us a call and pop back in so we can check it. Over time, your fillings will actually wear and deteriorate; they may crack or come away from the side. In such cases, the filling will simply need to be replaced. Your dentist will check all your fillings at each six month recall so it’s important to keep up with your regular recalls.
What happens when I go to the dentist?
We will check for any chips, cracks, decay, fractures, abrasion and anything else that may need filling to protect it. Sometimes fillings aren’t necessary and we just need to monitor the situation- regular care is important if we are doing this. If possible we prefer to treat things preventatively rather than drilling and filling. Each time you replace a filling you always end up taking away a little more tooth so ideally you do this only when necessary. X-rays are crucial in diagnosing decay in between the teeth and ensuring we catch things early so they remain small. We take them about every 2 years if you are low risk, more often if you get decay more frequently.