Dental amalgam (silver metal) fillings have been available for many years although new formulations have lower mercury content and tarnish less readily. This filling material is still in very common usage.
White fillings are usually made of a composite resin-based material. These are newer and again their formulation has changed since they were first introduced. They can be matched to the original tooth color and hence give a good appearance.
All filling materials can now be bonded to the remaining tooth, lessening the possibility of them falling out and also helping to support the remaining tooth.
Fillings can also be made of porcelain. This has to be crafted out of the mouth and therefore requires a second visit to secure it into place. Sometimes a composite resin can be crafted out of the mouth and the material made to be more hard and durable than would be possible when working inside the mouth. Gold is also occasionally used for fillings, but once again this requires more than one visit.
If a considerable amount of the tooth has been lost, then a crown may be required to restore it.
FAQ: White fillings
Can I replace my silver fillings with white ones?
For over 150 years standard fillings have been made out of a silvery-grey material called ‘amalgam’. This is still one of the strongest and longest-lasting materials available for fillings. However, many people find it unattractive and some are concerned about possible health risks.
There are now alternatives to amalgam fillings. If a tooth needs filling or repairing, white fillings are now replacing many amalgam ones. The new dental materials mean it is much easier to find a perfect match for the shade of a particular tooth. In most cases, it is quite impossible to see that the tooth even has a filling.
What is a composite filling?
A composite filling is resin-based and is applied as a putty-like material. This can be molded to the exact shape of the tooth and is then set using visible blue light. It can be matched exactly to the shade of your tooth and most are now as strong as amalgam, proving to be a successful alternative. The filling is ‘bonded’ to the tooth. The advantages of this method are that the cavity needs less preparation and in some cases, it may not be necessary to numb the tooth first.