White or tooth-coloured fillings are dental fillings that restore and mimic the natural appearance of a tooth. In addition to rebuilding teeth that have fractured or decayed, tooth-coloured fillings are also used to replace old amalgam silver fillings. The process involves the skilful use of dental composite - a mouldable tooth-coloured material with a paste-like consistency made from glass resins and fillers.
The strength of the adhesion between the material and the tooth allows your HBDS dentist to limit the removal of tooth structure compared to traditional metal amalgam fillings. This makes conservative white fillings the most important aspect of minimal intervention. It is a safer and healthier alternative to traditional silver fillings.
White fillings are long-lasting and available in a range of shades that can be matched to the colour of your own teeth. These bonded fillings are essential to minimally invasive dentistry and allow us to keep your teeth healthier for longer.
The pros and cons of white composite fillings
- They closely match natural tooth colour and appearance.
- They bond chemically to the tooth and thus do not require placing slots, grooves or pins in the healthy tooth structure to retain them mechanically.
- The bonding of white fillings to the tooth restores 85% – 95% of the original strength of the tooth.
- They harden in seconds rather than days that some other materials take.
- Due to the composite resin, tooth sensitivity is minimal and brief, if felt at all.
- They can be used on front and back teeth without compromising aesthetics.
- They can be repaired if damaged.
- They are not as strong as porcelain restorations.
- Frequent or prolonged exposure to liquids with a high alcohol content may degrade them.
- They are technique-sensitive, and great expertise is required to do them correctly.
What are they?
Tooth-coloured fillings were first introduced in the mid-1960s. Subsequently, these materials have undergone continual improvements in durability, aesthetics and material handling. The most versatile and widely used tooth-coloured filling today is the composite resin filling.
A composite is a material in which filler particles are encased and bound together by a hard matrix material. In this case, a fluid matrix of acrylic called BIS-GMA is hardened around glass filler particles to form composite resin.
Because of the greater technique sensitivity, at HBDS, we use a special plastic sheet called a rubber dam to isolate the teeth that we’re working on. This allows greater control of saliva in the area, and for you to be more relaxed, as no water can wash down your throat.
We don't always need to numb the area we’re working on because white composite fillings are chemically bonded to teeth. However, if tooth decay has progressed beneath the enamel layer and into the underlying dentin which surrounds the nerve of the tooth, we will do so.
We remove the decay, clean the tooth and apply a primer to open the pores in the enamel and dentin. We pour a bonding agent into the open pores and cure it as preparation for bonding. Next, we place the filling material inside the tooth. After shaping, we harden the filling using a strong curing light.
We’ll check your bite to make sure your teeth fit together properly, and also the spaces in between so you can floss. We finish off by smoothing and polishing your new filling.
Alternatives to composite resin fillings
Your choice will depend on the following:
- The size of the area to be restored.
- The strength required of the filling material.
- A desire for a longer-lasting restoration.
The most aesthetic and long-lasting alternative to composite tooth-coloured fillings is porcelain inlays or onlays. Inlays are longer lasting and more stain-resistant. However, they cost more and require a longer treatment period.
Making the best choices for you
When it comes to selecting the best material for you and your particular teeth, consultation is key. We’ll discuss factors such as strength, aesthetics, cost and the longevity of dental filling materials with you. We need to check the current condition of the teeth, the size of the area to be restored, the location of the teeth involved, and the forces (chewing, shearing, grinding, etc.) being placed on the teeth, as well as other normal movements of your jaw.
At Hout Bay Dental Studio, we go the extra mile to make sure our patients receive the appropriate treatment they need.