What is a filling?
Dental fillings are used as a restorative measure in teeth that have been affected by decay or damage. It is a common procedure and most fillings are carried out without any issues, but sometimes dentists may perform the treatment poorly, which can lead to a number of problems as a result.
Generally, fillings are either done with silver amalgam (a combination of metals) or white fillings. Usually, white fillings are not available on the NHS for adults, so if you want a white filling, you usually have to pay for this by having private dental treatment.
The process for a silver amalgam filling usually involves a local anaesthetic to ensure the patient doesn’t feel any pain during the procedure. The affected tooth is then cleaned of decay and bacteria, often using a drill and the filling material is placed into the cavity.
White fillings differ from this and potentially can have more associated risks if the procedure is not carried out to a good standard by your dentist.
What is the process of having a white filling?
If, after discussion with your dentist, you decide to go ahead with having white fillings placed, your dentist will start by numbing the area using a local anaesthetic. Once the tooth in question is completely numb, the next step is to isolate the tooth from the rest of the mouth. This isolation is essential for both your comfort and also to ensure the tooth is kept dry so that the white filling will bond to your tooth properly.
Your dentist will then remove decay from the cavity in the tooth using a high-speed rotating dental drill, before treating the cavity base and walls chemically to ensure the white filling bonds well to the tooth. They will choose the right shade of filling to match your teeth and then it will be carefully placed in layers to fill the cavity. Each layer must be hardened using a special light which cures the white filling material. This light curing process will take up to 30 seconds for each layer.
It is essential that your dentist protects your eyes during the light curing process, and you should be provided with protective glasses with special filters in the lens. Your dentist will also protect their eyes and those of their assistants by covering your mouth with a translucent, handheld screen.
Once the filling has been set hard, your dentist will check that you can bite comfortably before polishing the surface.
The benefits of white fillings
White fillings are used to seal tooth cavities and prevent tooth decay (as long as you exercise good dental hygiene and have regular dental check-ups). They should ultimately reduce any sensitivity associated with the cavity as well.
However, the appearance of white fillings is clearly a major plus when compared to silver-coloured or metal amalgam fillings since white fillings are almost undetectable in your mouth, and mercury-free.
Additionally, because white fillings can be glued to the teeth, they can be used in smaller cavities than would be needed if silver-coloured fillings were placed.