White dental fillings, also known as composite fillings, are an alternative to amalgam fillings. The amalgam used for filling teeth is a blend of metals such as mercury, silver, tin and traces of others, with mercury being the primary component at 50% of the mixture. Composite fillings are made from a blend of plastic resins that actually form a bond with the natural tooth and can be colored to match the tooth as well.
A clear advantage of white dental fillings is the aesthetic one - the teeth that are repaired in this fashion cannot be distinguished from natural teeth. Amalgam fillings are easily visible on the molars when a patient smiles or otherwise has the mouth open, and on other teeth can be seen to varying degrees when eating, speaking or smiling. In addition to forming a bond with the repaired tooth and thus strengthening it, the use of composite materials also has the advantage of not requiring as much of the decayed tooth to be removed before the filling is applied as compared to amalgam fillings.
There are other advantages to white dental fillings. They are much less sensitive to the temperatures of foods and liquids than amalgam fillings, which can be the cause of considerable discomfort when a patient drinks a cold or hot beverage without being careful. They do not contain any mercury, a metal which is toxic if it is ingested into the human body. Even though research has shown that very little if any mercury actually leeches out of the amalgam materials used in so-called silver fillings, patients will often choose composite materials for this reason alone.
There are some disadvantages to white dental fillings. They are generally more expensive and take longer to properly apply than amalgam fillings. The techniques for preparation of the tooth, application of the filling material, and the technology used to bond the composite materials to the natural teeth are beyond the reach of general dentistry and require specific additional training and expertise of the dentist.
Finally, dental exams provide assessment for more serious, potential problems. A dentist is first to notate when wisdom teeth might be causing problems, when a patient's jaw is showing signs of TMJ or when braces might be needed if the teeth are too crowded. A dental exam is also an excellent screening tool for more serious conditions, such as cancer. By inspecting oral tissue and lymph nodes routinely, dentists can be the first line of defense against fighting cancers of the mouth and neck.
If you have any questions regarding white dental fillings, or would like to schedule your next appointment, please call us at 409-835-6257. We look forward to seeing you!