Before we describe white and silver fillings and their uses, here are a few short lines on tooth decay – the condition which necessitates most dental fillings.
Tooth decay is extremely common. It attacks a tooths’ dentin as well as its outer layer of enamel. Tooth decay can be painful; and if left to progress untreated, the affected tooth can be lost.
In the mouth remnants of starchy or sugary foods (cereals, soda, candies, fruits, breads, milk and so forth) are converted into acids. These acids combine with saliva, oral bacteria and food debris to form plaque, a substance which clings to the teeth. Acids within the plaque can dissolve a tooths’ protective layer of enamel and create holes in the tooth. These holes (called cavities or caries) must be filled in order to restore the tooths’ structural integrity and stop tooth decay. The dentists at our Surrey dental clinic fill cavities with amalgam (“silver”) or composite (“white”) fillings.
Dental amalgam fillings are silver due to the combination of metals they’re made of: silver, copper, tin and mercury. Most Canadians are familiar with silver fillings because they’re the type that’s used most often, including here at our dental clinic in Surrey.
Their silver color makes them stand out, so amalgam fillings are best suited to teeth in the back of the mouth. They’re durable, long-lasting, and easy to put into place, typically needing only a single visit to your Surrey dentist. They’re also the least expensive filling available. As you chew, silver fillings can release a tiny amount of mercury, but this isn’t a cause for worry. Amalgam fillings have been used safely for more than 150 years, and research has shown that they do not cause illness.
Whether a white composite filling should be used on a cavity depends on the tooths’ location in the mouth. Chewing places a lot of pressure on our back teeth. Composite fillings aren’t as durable as amalgam, so they’re not appropriate for filling cavities in molars. They’re also more expensive.
Placing a white filling involves several steps. Once your Surrey dentist cleans all the decay from the tooth, he or she will insert a bonding material into the hole. Multiple thin layers of composite resin are then added, one at a time. As each layer is placed, your dentist will hold a special light over the tooth (the light helps harden the composite). Once the final layer has hardened, your dentist will shape the filling to give it a natural look and feel.