White fillings tend to produce a more natural appearance than gold or silver amalgam fillings and help to disguise the fact that a filling has been used. They also provide a less invasive and faster method of treating cavities than alternatives such as crowns.
Tooth coloured composite fillings, or ‘white fillings’ as they are commonly known-are one of the most popular options for treating and repairing dental cavities and damaged teeth.
Few people are lucky enough to go through their whole lives without needing a filling at some point-and whilst baby teeth with fillings will ultimately be replaced with new adult teeth, if your adult teeth suffer damage or tooth decay, you will need to have them repaired with a dental filling or for heavily damaged teeth other options like inlays/onlays or even crowns may be considered in order to preserve your adult teeth for as long as possible.
White tooth fillings are used to restore the cavities (decay, caries) found in the teeth, returning the tooth or teeth in question to normal functionality and appearance. Many times food trapping, pain and sensitivity that was associated to these decayed teeth will be corrected with the filling and as long as you take the necessary precautions with brushing, flossing and healthy eating habits it should last for quite a long time.
Just like everything in life, our teeth require maintenance particularly when you realise we use our teeth every day at every moment for speaking, chewing and eating, so once we have fillings it does not mean we don’t need to take care with our oral hygiene anymore, in fact, we need to become more aware and have regular check ups in order to preserve our newly restored teeth longterm.
If your dentist has told you that you need to have a filling, or if you are aware of cavities in your teeth (dark spots, holes or fractures) that need repairing, this article will provide an introductory guide to white fillings / tooth coloured composite fillings, and their costs and alternatives.
White fillings are not the only option for dental fillings-there are several different types of fillings available, and which one is right for you will depend on a combination of your personal preferences, and what you and your dentist decide is the most appropriate option for the tooth in question.
Before you can make an informed decision about choosing white fillings, it is a good idea to look into the alternative options available, and how they differ.
With the evolution of new materials and techniques composite or “white” fillings are made of a tooth-coloured resin material, which is designed to produce a natural-looking filling that blends in with the rest of your teeth. The material comes in a variety of shades, and your dentist depending on their level of expertise in private cosmetic dentistry will choose accordingly, at times even mixing shades in layering effect to achieve a natural looking filing. This is often of particular importance for people who need fillings that will be visible when talking or smiling, and can effectively disguise the fact that a tooth has been filled at all. The strength and longevity of these materials have increased dramatically over the years and now used to substitute many historical metal fillings without the need to place things like crowns to restore the remaining tooth structure.
Silver amalgam fillings are silver/grey in colour, and are constructed of an amalgam of metals including tin, silver, copper and mercury. A silver amalgam filling will of course be visible in teeth that are exposed by talking and smiling, particularly in the lower arch when you open your mouth. The worry about mercury has encouraged many patients to replace their old metal fillings with white/tooth coloured fillings and many private cosmetic dentists will tend to avoid using amalgam fillings in most cases unless the history and oral hygiene of the patient as well as other factors indicate that an amalgam filling be placed instead. Cost tends to be a major factor when choosing to have a metal filling as opposed to a white/tooth coloured filling or your dentist may decide that in your individual case you will be better of with the stength and long lasting nature of an amalgam filling if your oral hygiene is not ideal or you possibly already have many Silver fillings present on your neighbouring teeth.
Porcelain inlays and onlays are constructed of tooth-coloured porcelain/ceramic to match the rest of the teeth, and can be used with care to repair teeth that require very large fillings, or that have been damaged or partially broken. They are sometimes used as an alternative to crowns as well as being a type of filling. It is a process that requires preparation of the cavitation and either a scan or impression of the tooth in order to fabricate the ceramic piece in lab or via an in surgery cerec milling machine.
Gold fillings are not available on the NHS, but are offered by many private dentists for patients that prefer to use gold rather than one of the more common materials. A long lasting metal filling option should the patient request it.
Gold is of course visible in the mouth on teeth that can be seen when smiling or talking-but this is part of the appeal for many people who choose gold fillings because they want their teeth to make a statement! The price of these fillings depend on the current going rate for gold based on weight and amount used in the restoration. Gold fillings tend to be a more expensive option for fillings.
White tooth fillings produce a more natural appearance than gold or silver amalgam fillings that help to disguise the fact that a filling has been used, and they also provide a less invasive and faster method of treating cavities in the teeth than alternatives such as crowns.
Additionally, you may have picked up from our description of silver amalgam fillings that one of the metals used in silver amalgams is mercury, and composite or white fillings are mercury-free. This is a main factor leading many patients to substitute historical metal fillings with tooth coloured composite fillings.
White fillings or composite fillings are made of a mixture of powdered glass, ceramic, and a resin base to hold it all together. Because there are no metals involved in the composition, this makes white fillings particularly well suited to people who are allergic to common metal amalgams such as tin, as well as of course avoiding introducing mercury into the body.
It also means that the filling itself has a natural, tooth-coloured appearance that blends in and does not prominently announce itself as a filling!
There are pros and cons for both white composite fillings and silver amalgam fillings, and which option is the best choice for you is something that you should discuss with your dentist.
While silver amalgam fillings can look unsightly and may cause problems for people who are allergic to certain metals-as well as of course historically containing mercury-they are also very hardwearing and tough, and so are a good choice for the biting and chewing surfaces of the teeth for people who tend to grind their teeth or are otherwise particularly hard on their dentition. These fillings require less maintenance so depending on your oral hygiene routine at home, if you do regular visits for an exam with your dentist and hygienist you may opt to have something more durable such as an amalgam filling placed.
White composite fillings tend to wear down faster than both natural teeth and silver amalgam fillings, and so may require repair or replacement over time. Maintenance of these fillings is easily achieved by brushing twice daily, using floss and visiting your dentist for routine exam and cleans. Should you find your tooth coloured fillings are chipping or breaking down building onto an existing damaged white filling is a relatively easy task, and may not require a total replacement of the filling if this does occur.
Frequent broken or chipped teeth and fillings may actually be signs of clenching and grinding and it is ideal to discuss with your dentist should you find this happening to you and your white fillings.
It is possible that your dentist might spot a cavity, prepare your tooth and place your white filling all on the same day as part of your initial consult, particularly if you visit a private clinic-but in some cases, you may be asked to make a second appointment once a cavity has been found in order to carry out the work proposed on your treatment plan.
The first step of fitting a white filling is to remove any decay present within the tooth and thoroughly clean it so that it is free from plaque and tartar, and this may feel a little uncomfortable or unpleasant. If necessary, you may be offered a local anaesthetic, particularly if your tooth is already painful or the work might involve close contact with the nerve, to enable you to relax during the procedure without pain.
Once thoroughly numbed in the area your dentist will access the cavity with a dental drill, removing any affected margins of tooth as well as using hand tools to remove any soft decay that may be present. Once the cavity is cleaned out and nicely shaped, the remaining surface of the tooth is etched and dried off, before coating the cavity with a special liquid agent that aids with bonding. The composite material is then applied to the cavity, manually shaping it to fit naturally and enable you to bite normally. Your dentist may ask you to bite down on your teeth and otherwise check and adjust the shape and size of the filling during the process, before the material fully hardens.
Once the filling is in place and your dentist is happy with the shape and fit of it, the composite material of the filling will be illuminated with a special curing light, which hardens the material and turns it into a strong composite that is able to withstand the rigours of day to day life. Finally, the filling will be trimmed and polished before you leave.
Because white tooth fillings are hardened instantly with a curing light, you do not have to wait before eating on your tooth-another advantage over silver amalgam fillings, which can take up to 24 hours to fully harden.
However, your dentist will probably tell you not to eat for a while if you had a local anaesthetic for the procedure, as you may accidentally bite the inside of your mouth!
White filling costs for a single tooth will mainly depend on whether you have the procedure performed on the NHS, or with a private dentist.
Under the remit of NHS dental services, white composite fillings are classed as a Band 2 course of treatment, which at the time of writing, costs £56.30. However, prices for a white filling with a private dentist can vary considerably, ranging from £60.00 up to a couple of hundreds of pounds or even more for specially made composite fillings.This will all depend on the expertise of your dentist with tooth coloured fillings and how artistic they may be might dictate how long the procedure actually takes. Just simply filling the cavitation with material many dentists are more than capable of achieving, but it is the fine natural details of the tooth that varies from practitioner to practitioner. Be prepared to spend in the range of £120-240 for a natural looking composite filling.
Additionally, when visiting a private dentist, the initial consultation and any additional work required such as dental X-rays may be charged for in addition to the cost of fitting your white composite filling. This should all be straight forward on a treatment plan prior to going ahead with treatment. Many dentists have intra oral cameras these days and can actually show you the before and after immediately following your filling being placed.
Should a filling be insufficient to restore your tooth the dentist will discuss all the alternative options including inlays/onlays and crowns among others.
The next time you have a full dental exam and a cavity is spotted you will know what to expect and are able to make a more informed decision when speaking with your dentist about whether white or tooth coloured composite fillings are right for you.
If you are looking for a dentist that specialises in white fillings in your local area to help you achieve the perfect smile, look no further. Smileo has over 2,000 private dentists in the UK, all performing a range of dental treatments such as fillings, teeth bonding, dental implants, dental crowns and dental veneers, teeth whitening or laser gum contouring.
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