What Types Of White Filling Are Available?
White fillings are used by dentists to create a more natural appearance than silver fillings. They are now just as hard wearing as the silver versions but much less noticeable when you smile or laugh. There are a number of different types of white filling available but most are made from a mix of synthetic resin, glass particles and a setting ingredient.
Composite fillings which are made from powdered glass and quartz can be selected from a shade chart to match the natural colour of your teeth. Composite fillings are quite strong but not as hard wearing as silver fillings.
Glass Ionomer Fillings
Glass ionomer fillings work by forming a chemical bond with the tooth. They give a natural look but are not very hard wearing so are generally used on non biting areas such as the side of the tooth.
Lastly, there are porcelain inlays which are designed as bespoke fittings for your teeth using CADCAM technology. These inlays are very hard wearing but they are the most expensive form of white filling available.
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Who Would Benefit From White Fillings?
White fillings are best suited to patients who have smaller cavities and those who want an aesthetically pleasing appearance to their teeth. For larger cavities, your dentist is likely to recommend that you opt for porcelain inlays.
White fillings are often popular with patients who have concerns about the long term safety of metal fillings. They are not recommended for people looking for very hard wearing fillings as white fillings do tend to wear down more quickly. Additionally, they may not be ideal for people who smoke or drink lots of tea or coffee as they are prone to staining.
Advantages And Disadvantages
There are many advantages to having tooth coloured white fillings, namely their ability to closely match the natural look of your teeth and overall smile.
As these fillings bond to the tooth structure chemically, there is no need to damage the tooth to aid with adhesion. There is not a need for slots, grooves or pins to be placed in an otherwise healthy tooth to mechanically retain the fillings, which is a distinct advantage. White fillings can restore 85%-95% of the original strength of the tooth, hardening in mere seconds instead of days. As the process is relatively quick, the composite resin is not in use for long, which can be beneficial to those suffering with tooth sensitivity.
Generally, composite white fillings can be used to treat teeth at the front and back without compromising aesthetics, and if damaged, they can be easily repaired. However, like your natural teeth, the composites can be stained through prolonged exposure to liquids like coffee, tea and red wine. Repeated exposure to foods with high acidity levels or liquids with a high alcohol content may also cause them to degrade. They are also not as strong as metal fillings, which can be seen as a disadvantage to some. White composite fillings are also more expensive than amalgam fillings, and for this reason some insurers may impose a surcharge.
Cost Of A White Filling
White fillings are generally viewed as a cosmetic treatment, so the more expensive types are very rarely available on the NHS. However, certain white fillings may be used during NHS treatment, if considered appropriate.
The cost of having the treatment done privately will vary depending on the size of your cavity; the dentist that you visit and the type of filling you opt for. A small composite filling can cost between £80 and £150, whereas large porcelain inlays can cost up to £1,000. However, these are only guideline prices and your dentist will be able to give you an accurate quote once they have assessed your requirements.
For a composite filling, a local anaesthetic is often injected into your gum, although not all cases require an anaesthetic. The tooth is thoroughly cleaned of debris and plaque and then dried by the dentist. The surface of the tooth will be etched with a special phosphoric acid based gel creating a surface for the composite to bond to. The composite is then applied to the tooth and exposed to a special curing light which causes it to harden and set. This process may be repeated in layers several times until the desired shape is created on the tooth.
A porcelain inlay will take a couple of visits to the dentist. At the first one, the damaged parts of the tooth will be drilled down and the shape of your tooth and cavity will be carefully assessed. The bespoke inlay will then be made for you, and you may be fitted with a temporary inlay. On the second visit, your permanent inlay will be fitted into place.
White Fillings Aftercare
Once the new filling has been fitted, patients can eat and chew as normal. However, dentists advise do against biting your nails or chewing pens as this is likely to cause them to fracture. Coffee, tea, red wine and smoking should be all avoided as these will cause the filling to stain.
Your dentist may suggest an alternative to white composite fillings, depending on the size of the area that needs to be treated, the strength required, and the overall aesthetic look that needs to be achieved.
One of the most common alternatives to composite tooth coloured fillings are fabricated composite inlays and porcelain inlays. These have a higher propensity to stand up to stains and last longer than white composites, and they do not degrade with alcohol either. However, these tend to be more expensive, and they cannot be fitted with a single visit they are manufactured in a dental laboratory. Compomers, modified composite resins, are another common alternative to resin white composite fillings, although they are not as wear resistant. They do however release fluoride, which makes them ideal for use in non-load bearing areas of the mouth that can be at higher risk of decay.
Your dentist may also suggest one of two other alternatives to composite resin fillings, silicate ionomer or glass ionomer tooth fillings. These are weaker alternatives to the composite type, and so are commonly used in applications in the front of the mouth as opposed to on load-bearing back teeth. They are less wear resistant than composite and not as long-lasting, and these synthetic materials do not replicate the natural appearance of teeth, as can be achieved with composite resin.