White tooth fillings are rapidly replacing those ugly old silver or metal amalgam fillings of old – and little wonder.
Most people prefer tooth colored fillings so that when they speak or laugh they aren't exposing a mouthful of dark fillings on their back teeth. That's the problem with silver fillings – they eventually turn black.
Now, although white or composite fillings have been around since the 1960s, it's only in recent years that they have become strong and durable enough to be placed in back teeth where most of the hard chewing is done. That's why dentists in the past preferred using amalgam fillings – they were incredibly strong and lasted for years.
However, those so-called metal fillings can also lead to cracked teeth over time because they expand. They also contain small amounts of mercury, which is quite toxic. Indeed, many dentists now won't use amalgam because of the mercury component.
White fillings are usually made of plastic and glass particles – they are mercury free and because they bond to the tooth they actually restore much of its original strength.
It's definitely a good idea to go with composites, though there are five things to take note of:
1) They take longer to place than amalgam and are thus more expensive.
2) They will last a long time, but not as long as metal fillings.
3) They require more care, including careful flossing and brushing.
4) They are prone to staining from tea and coffee. Strong alcoholic drinks – and mouthwash containing alcohol – can weaken the restoration.
5) If you have a tooth with a large amount of decay, your dentist might advise you to have a crown to strengthen it, rather than a composite that would not be strong enough.
Here's the good news about white fillings: they are no longer regarded as cosmetic procedures by many dental insurance plans these days, so you could get coverage and be on your way to a gleaming smile.