To treat a cavity, the dentist will remove any decay and then fill the area of the tooth that is now missing. Previously, this area would have been filled with an amalgam filling however due to advancements in dental technology, a composite resin (known as a white filling) is now more commonly used. This resin provides a natural and aesthetically pleasing appearance and can reduce the risk of fracturing the tooth that is associated with amalgam fillings.
What is the procedure?
One advantage of composite resin fillings, is that you'll only require one visit to the dentist. During your appointment, the tooth is assessed and prepared, the decay is removed and the filling placed. By the end of your appointment, the tooth's functionality will be fully restored and you'll be able to go about daily life.
Once the tooth has been prepared and the decay has been removed, your dentist will thoroughly clean the tooth and begin placing layers of composite resin on the tooth. Once each layer has been placed, a specialised light will be used to harden each layer. When this process is finished your dentist will shape the composite to fit the tooth. It will then be polished to help protect it from wear and staining.
This appointment will normally take an hour or so depending on the extent of the cavity. Once complete your mouth may still feel numb but this will wear off over a couple of hours.
Advantages of white fillings
Aesthetics – The main reason why patients choose composite fillings is due to their aesthetically pleasing appearance. As composite fillings are available in many shades, your dentist is able to closely match the filling to your existing tooth, making it less noticeable. This is particularly important for patients who require a filling on their front or more visible teeth.
Versatility – Composite fillings can also be used to repair a chipped, cracked or worn down tooth.
Tooth sensitivity – Compared to other filling options, composite fillings are less sensitive to hot and cold.
No mercury – White fillings do not contain mercury. While it has not been proven that the mercury in silver amalgam fillings has any negative effect, patients often want the peace of mind that no issues may arise in the future.
Bonding to tooth structure – Composite fillings are able to chemically bond to the tooth with the use of an adhesive. This bonding supports the existing tooth and results in a stronger tooth, that's less prone to breakage. It also means that less of the existing healthy tooth needs to be removed.
How long do white fillings last?
The longevity of a composite filling will depend on a number of factors including the location of the filling and how much pressure it is under. During your appointment, your dentist will be able to advise you on the life span of the filling. Generally you can expect it to last seven to 10 years.