White fillings vs amalgam
Dentist fillings come in different materials, the traditional posterior one used to be silver-mercury (amalgam) . This is used less and less, both for its poor appearance and the fact that it contains the poison mercury. It also requires more tooth removal than the quartz composite alternative .
Some countries and certain states in the US have either forbidden its use or advised against it. At CAP City Dental we have not placed amalgam fillings for over twenty five years.
What are white composite fillings?
For about the last forty years, tooth coloured quartz composite has been used as a restorative material both in front as well as back teeth. Over the years the material has been improved tremendously, in terms of its strength, bonding to natural tooth and its appearance; although there is still much room for further improvement. It may well be that in the future, this material, or some variation of it, will be improved sufficiently that it may well be used for all dental restorations, even the ‘big’ ones.
Unlike the old amalgams, these composites are able to bond (or ‘stick’) to the natural tooth and so can be quite conservative, as they do not need tooth removal to provide mechanical retention . On balance, quartz composite would be considered the ideal material for the restoration of all small to medium sized tooth cavities. It can be used for larger cavities, particularly if additional miniature retaining pins are also used. However, the patient needs to appreciate its limitations; these being that the material is not all that strong. In a very heavily filled tooth, it is fine to be used as a core material if a crown is to be fitted over it. A filling is just that … it ‘fills’ a hole. If the tooth needs maximum support, the filling may only be a short term ‘compromise’ solution and a full crown may be indicated.
How much do composite fillings cost?
The cost of a filling varies according to its complexity and therefore, how long it takes to carry out. Pins incur an additional small cost. The longevity of these fillings varies, generally between five and ten years.