Dentistry schools have yet to respond to the voice of the marketplace in the matter of dental fillings. Even though market research indicates that an overwhelming percentage of consumers prefer white fillings over silver amalgam fillings, the proper techniques for placing white composite fillings are still not being taught in most schools of dentistry. To become proficient in placing white fillings, dentists must pursue post-graduate training.
Why are white fillings better?
- The composite material is able to flow into smaller spaces, and therefore requires less removal of the original tooth to fill the cavity. This eliminates the old practice of waiting for a cavity to be "big enough to fill", and allows for preservation of more of the original tooth structure.
- The composite material bonds with the tooth, which creates a stronger overall structure. The silver in amalgam fillings actually weakens the surrounding tooth structure, making the remaining tooth more susceptible to fractures.
- Teeth restored with composite fillings are less sensitive to hot and cold. Unlike the metal material of the amalgam fillings, the composite filling material does not conduct heat or cold to the sensitive nerve of the treated tooth.
- White fillings are without question much more attractive than dark, ugly amalgam fillings.
- White fillings contain no mercury. Though the most current crop of research studies has not offered conclusive evidence as to whether or not the mercury in amalgam fillings is harmful to the body, many people prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to putting a known neuro-toxin into their bodies.
Drawbacks to White Fillings
The most significant drawback to white fillings is not the fault of the materials or procedures involved, but in the risk that your dentist might not be properly trained to place them. If your dentist does not want to place white fillings and you do not want amalgam fillings, you frankly need to find a new dentist.
These pictures illustrate what can happen when a dentist is not properly trained to place white fillings. The "Before" picture on the left depicts a patient with white fillings gone wrong–the dark spots are where the fillings are leaking, and decay has set in. The fillings are also wearing away, indicating that the material was not allowed to cure properly.
The "After" picture on the right illustrates what an educated and experienced dentist can do to repair poorly done fillings. These white fillings are protecting the remaining teeth structures, and look much, much better and healthier.
Because they are more time-consuming and difficult to place, white composite fillings sometimes cost more than amalgam fillings, and dental insurance companies do not always accommodate that extra cost.
A Word of Caution
Excessive alcohol consumption can seriously undermine the composite material of white fillings. If you consume beverages with a high alcohol content (such as whiskey) on a daily basis, your white fillings will deteriorate much faster than they should.