White fillings provide a more natural look than an amalgam filling. You may hear the dentist talk about ‘composite’, ‘glass ionomer’ and ‘compomer’ which are all different types of white filling used in differing situations.
What will my dentist do?
Usually numb the area around the tooth with an injection – but some small fillings may not need an anaesthetic.
Remove any decay, together with any old filling material, using a small, high-speed drill.
Remove any weak unsupported part of the tooth which might break later.
Wash and dry the tooth by blowing water and then air onto it (the dentist will be holding something which looks like a water pistol).
Etch the surface to be restored with a gel solution, to help the filling stick firmly.
Coat the surface that is to be restored with a bonding agent (which acts like glue) and then place the filling material – this is placed into the cavity that is to be filled and it is shaped and contoured as required.
Harden the filling by pointing a bright (ultraviolet) light at it, inside your mouth (you will see the dentist and dental nurse protecting their eyes) – this is called ‘curing’.
Trim and polish the filling as necessary.
What are the benefits?
Unlike silver (amalgam) fillings, white material sticks to teeth and can form edges, so it may be effectively used to repair front teeth that are chipped, broken, decayed or worn. It can also be used, as a ‘veneer’ to cover marks or discolouration that cleaning won’t remove.
White fillings are less noticeable than silver fillings, which turn black in the mouth. White fillings come in a range of shades so they can be matched to the colour of your own teeth.
A tooth usually needs less preparation for a white filling than for a silver filling.
White fillings can sometimes be used in back teeth if there is not too much decay or damage. White fillings are also difficult to place in back teeth, as they need very dry conditions, which can be hard to achieve right at the back of your mouth. An onlay or crown may be a better option in some circumstances. Ask your dentist for advice.