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Most people have fillings of one sort or another in their mouths. Nowadays fillings can be natural looking, as well as doing the job they're meant to do. Many people don't want silver fillings that show when they laugh or smile because they are more conscious about the way they look.
Because many white fillings are classed as a ‘cosmetic' treatment, you can only have them done privately. So costs can vary quite a lot from dentist to dentist. Costs usually depend on the size and type of white filling used, and the time it takes to carry out the treatment. Costs may also vary from region to region, but your dentist will be able to give you an idea of the cost before you agree to treatment.
White fillings have always been considered less long lasting than silver amalgam fillings. But there are now new materials that are almost as good as silver amalgam, and these are proving to be very successful. How long a white filling lasts can depend a lot on where it is in your mouth and how heavily your teeth come together when you bite. Your dentist can tell you about how long your fillings should last.
It is usually best to change fillings only when your dentist decides that an old filling needs replacing. When this happens you can ask to have it replaced with a tooth-coloured filling.
Some dentists prefer not to put white fillings in back teeth as they are not always successful. One way around this would be to use crowns or inlays, but this can mean removing more of the tooth and can be more expensive.
It can vary, but they are mainly made of glass particles, synthetic resin and a setting ingredient. Your dentist should be able to give you more information about the material they use. Here are some of the choices.
Composite fillings are strong, but may not be as hard wearing as ordinary amalgam fillings.
Composite fillings are tooth coloured and are made from powdered glass, quartz, silica or other ceramic particles added to a resin base. The dentist will choose a shade to match your own teeth, although over time the filling can get stained. After the tooth is prepared, the filling is bonded onto the area with an adhesive and a light shone onto it to set it. With this type of filling, the dentist may have to remove less of the tooth, which is obviously better.
Glass ionomer fillings form a chemical bond with the tooth. They may also release fluoride, which helps prevent further tooth decay. This type of filling is fairly weak. Because of this, they are usually used on baby teeth and non-biting surfaces, such as around the neck of the tooth. Little preparation is needed as the filling bonds directly to the tooth.
Your dentist can now use computer technology (called CADCAM) to design and prepare perfectly fitted porcelain inlays in just one or two visits. Porcelain inlays can also be made in a laboratory, but this will need at least two visits to your dentist. Porcelain can be hard wearing and long lasting, and it can be coloured to match your own teeth. This type of filling can be quite expensive.
Most dental practices offer white fillings as a normal part of the treatment they give you.
There are alternatives such as crowns and inlays although they can cost a lot more. Veneers can be used on front teeth instead of crowns or fillings. For more information, see our ‘Tell me about' leaflets on crowns and veneers.