If you have silver-colored fillings (amalgams) in your mouth, chances are they have been there a while. Most dentists no longer use silver fillings because better options are available. If you find out that you have a cavity, you will need to get it fixed by having it removed and replaced with a filling. When this process takes place, you will most likely receive a filling that is white. White fillings are generally made of a composite material and offer benefits over silver fillings.
What Is a Composite Filling?
When you need to get a cavity removed and filled, your dentist at a place like Valley Oak Dental Group Inc will probably use a composite material for the procedure. Composite fillings are made of resin materials, including plastic and ceramic. This material is white in color, but it comes in numerous shades of white, which allows dentists to choose the right shade for a person's mouth.
Getting a composite filling is similar to getting a silver filling, but the process takes a little longer. Before a filling is inserted into a tooth, the dentist must remove all of the decay. The purpose of a filling is to replace the decay with a material so the tooth is complete.
For a dentist to put a composite filling in, he or she must dry the entire tooth because the material cannot attach properly if it is wet. Once it is in, the dentist may apply heat to it to help it dry and harden.
Why Have Dentists Switched?
While silver fillings used to be the "norm" with dental fillings, dentistry has progressed and made a lot of changes, including changes to the material used for fillings. There are several reasons composite fillings are the preferred option today, and here are the top two reasons:
- Amalgam fillings contain mercury – An amalgam filling is made of metal, and it contains silver, tin, copper, and mercury. Mercury is a non-radioactive element found in the earth, and it is known for being lethal. Because it is found in silver fillings, it can leak. While the amount leaked is considered very small, it could still pose health risks to people that have silver fillings.
- Composite fillings are white – If you've ever been embarrassed to open your mouth because of the metal it contains from your fillings, you can probably understand why using white fillings is a better option. White fillings blend in better and are used for aesthetical purposes.
Many dentists still use amalgam fillings, but most also offer composite fillings too. A lot of people are against silver fillings; however, most experts (including Mayo Clinic) still believe that they are completely safe.
What Are the Benefits of Composite Fillings?
One of the main benefits is the appearance of a composite filling over a silver one, but there are other benefits too, including that they:
- Bond to teeth well – Composite fillings tend to bond and seal well to teeth, which reduces the chances of a filling coming loose or falling out.
- Insulate better – Another advantage is the insulation abilities composite materials offer. Because they insulate better, people often do not experience as much sensitivity to hot and cold foods when they have composite fillings.
- Are versatile – No one ever wants a silver filling on a front tooth, whereas a composite filling is fine on any tooth–front or back.
One disadvantage is that composite fillings generally cost twice as much as amalgam fillings; however, most dental insurance plans cover both types.
As you prepare to go to your dental visit to get a cavity removed, you may get to choose the type you would prefer. You can talk to your dentist to learn more about this and the pros and cons of each type.