You have probably heard the term from your dentist, but what exactly is a ‘white filling‘? In today’s article we will discuss exactly what it is, the pros and cons of white fillings, and let you know exactly what to expect if you decide to get one for yourself. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of a white filling!
So what is a white filling, anyways?
A white filling is a filling made from a composite resin. It is interesting because the technique in which it is used, called ‘Bonding’, involves shaping the resin to mimic your tooth and then hardening it with a special light. This type of filling is not going to fall out like a metal one might, as the bonding process allows the material to chemically bond to your tooth. So, what are the Pros and Cons of using composite resin? Let’s go into the ‘Pros’ first.
The Pros of utilizing a white filling
- It’s a time saving solution – A single trip to the dentist is adequate for getting your filling done. Just drop in, get it done, and your problem is solved.
- The chemical bond strengthens the tooth – Due to the chemical bonding and the heat curing of the filling, white fillings are actually stronger than amalgam fillings.
- Cosmetically desirable – Unlike a filling done with gold or other metals, a composite resin filling will match the color of your tooth so as to be unnoticeable.
- Can be used with other materials – A composite resin can be used in conjunction with other materials, such as Ionomer, so that you may have the benefits associated with both materials.
- Minimal drilling – A composite resin filling requires less drilling in order to put it in place, so you will get to maintain more of your natural tooth than you would with other fillings.
The Cons of utilizing a white filling
While this medium has a number of advantages when employed as a filling, there are a number of disadvantages as well that you will want to consider. The ‘Cons’ of white fillings are as follows:
- Possible shrinkage – In some cases, composite resin may shrink, creating a gap in your tooth that is vulnerable to cavities. Your dentist will typically apply the filling in small layers in order to minimize the chances of this.
- Costlier – Composite resin fillings take more time to apply than a regular filling and so they are costlier than the more common amalgam fillings.
- Longevity – If you are wondering ‘how long do white fillings last’ then we have some bad news. Composite resin fillings are typically good for 5 years, whereas amalgam fillings are typically good for up to 15 years.
- Can chip and stain – White fillings are easier to chip than other fillings and must also be cared for vigilantly as they are more prone to staining than other filling types.
This is going to depend largely on your personal opinion. If you want a filling that looks good and can be done in a single visit (in most cases) then this is a durable, cosmetically pleasing option. There are many different types of fillings for you to consider that have their own advantages and disadvantages as well, such as:
- Gold – Durable, but 10 times the price of amalgam, gold fillings are strong and will not corrode, typically lasting for 10 – 15 years.
“Gold fillings are strong and will not corrode.”
- Amalgam – The least costly option, amalgam fillings are stronger than many other types and last a long time, but they can tarnish with age and are not as cosmetically pleasing. That said, they are excellent as a filling for back teeth where they will not be seen .
- Glass Ionomer – A common filling used for children, glass ionomer is composed of an acrylic and a glass material and will generally last up to 5 years. The advantage of this material is that releases fluoride, strengthening the tooth, but it is not as durable as amalgam or composite fillings.
- Ceramics – Long lasting, ceramics (generally porcelain) are stain resistant and typically good for 15 years or more. That said, they are costlier than gold fillings, so this is a consideration.
Can I get a white filling on the NHS?
Actually, it is quite likely that you can. Considered a ‘band 2’ on the NHS, white fillings are typically covered if the damaged tooth is visible, such as your incisors or your canines. You will want to consult with your dentist to be sure but it is quite likely that the NHS will cover your white fillings if these requirements are met.
Which is better, composite or amalgam fillings?
Amalgam fillings are more durable and more cost effective, however, they are not as cosmetically pleasing as a composite resin filling. If you are looking to fill a tooth that will not be visible then amalgam may be a better choice for you, but if the tooth has high visibility then it is likely that you will prefer the composite resin so that the repair to your tooth is ‘invisible’.
Some final words on white fillings
Today we have discussed the pros and cons of white fillings and also advised on some of the different types which you may choose from. While they look great, white fillings do have a disadvantage in that they do not last as long as cheaper, more durable amalgam fillings. Still, they do have the advantage of only requiring one visit and as other materials may be used as well (such as glass ionomer to produce fluoride), it is possible that you might be able to increase their longevity and benefits with a custom white filling from your dentist!