We all know that a dental check-up can sometimes result in finding the occasional problem, whether it’s a small hole or perhaps an abscess that’s developed and needs taking care of. One of the most common treatments in dentistry is the filling, with more than 4 out of 5 people in the UK having had at least 1 filling.

It’s likely that when you were a child you may have had at least one tooth filling procedure and even with regular check-ups and good teeth maintenance, you can still get the occasional cavity or experience tooth decay. The dental filling treatment has evolved over the years, with more sophisticated tools available to help ease the process and to reduce the discomfort associated with having a filling.


Benefits of White Fillings (Composite)

  • Composite fillings are tooth coloured and they can help “merge” the look of the tooth with your other teeth.
  • Prevent the unsightly areas in your mouth which can occur with silver amalgam fillings.
  • Fillings for those teeth which are suffering from mild tooth decay will enable you to keep the tooth once the cavity is filled in, rather than lose the tooth altogether.
  • Composite filling treatments offer more protection from thermal stresses such as hot or cold food and drink, which can create expansion and contraction with less reliable amalgam silver fillings. This type of filling helps create a stronger tooth in the long run.
  • Composite fillings help with cracked or broken teeth as well and can be used in an emergency situation.
  • Stability is increased and requires a small amount of the tooth structure to be replaced, allowing more of the natural tooth to remain.
  • Composite fillings are preferred over silver amalgam because they are not metal.



Types of Dental Filling Material

There are numerous materials that can be used for fillings. Silver amalgam and tooth coloured composite are the most popular materials used but dentists can also use Gold, Ceramic and Glass.

Ceramic – Ceramic filling treatments are available and the material is normally made from porcelain and highly resistant. They are very expensive usually and the colour lasts longer than resin composites. They can be abrasive, however, they will last roughly between 15-20 years.

Tooth Coloured Composite – If you want to hide the fact you have a filling or you want to keep the aesthetics of your mouth as “filling-free” as possible, composite fillings are the best option available. They bond to the structure of the tooth and provide a more natural look to the tooth.

Glass – Glass fillings contain acrylic and they are usually for below-the-gum-line dental issues. The wear and tear of glass fillings is high and so usually there would be a need to replace them after only 5 years.

Silver Amalgam – A silver filling is the most cost-effective option and the most common. They can last as long as tooth-coloured options and they are strong enough to withstand the forces of prolonged chewing. They can also be fitted within one dental session. However, they need more of the tooth to be removed to allow for the filling material and they can crack and be susceptible to changing temperatures. They also don’t bond with the tooth and they can corrode over time.

Gold – Gold fillings are usually made from gold alloy and used for inlays and crowns. They are a durable option with up to a 15 year lifespan. The main advantage with gold fillings is that they don’t corrode and have a more durable effect than most other options. Many people prefer the look of gold compared with the silver amalgam fillings but there is a downside with regards cost, when compared against other alternatives.


White fillings will correct these issues

Natural - White fillings are preferred simply because they are naturally tooth coloured and don’t stand out amongst the rest of your teeth. Technology allows composite fillings to practically match your other teeth in terms of colour and this means a more natural, pleasantly aesthetic look. Aside from the aesthetics, white fillings will also help add support for teeth suffering from decay and crookedness and when an issue arises where the tooth is in a poor condition, composite fillings allow less of the original tooth to be needed to complete the filling.

Durability - Durability is a big factor when it comes to fillings and as we’ve mentioned, there are various types of material to choose from but now, composite fillings provide a strong, effective solution for anywhere in the mouth and can withstand the daily rigours of chewing and drinking. The main issue with silver amalgam has always been durability and cracking but with composite white fillings, this is of little concern.

Thermal Stresses - Thermal stresses occur in the mouth naturally as time goes on, particularly because as you eat hot or cold food or drinks it can cause expansion and contraction, which results in cracking and damage to the tooth. Composite fillings can stand up to thermal stresses significantly and they add that level of durability needed for years of use.

Metal - Although not conclusive, metal could be harmful to your body but of course in small quantities such as in a filling, it’s generally considered safe. However, as technology has moved on, so have our habits and decisions of what we put inside our bodies. Composite white fillings give a perfect alternative to silver amalgam fillings which you may have from previous fillings performed years ago and which are now naturally breaking down or are a little unsightly. White fillings can replace those cavities in most cases and provide a natural, more uniform look within your mouth.


What will my dentist do?

The process tends to be the same each time depending on which type of filling you are having (composite, silver, ceramic etc.). The treatment generally doesn’t take too long but again this will depend on the cavity. Generally, the dentist will use Anaesthetic to numb the area, this could be through anaesthetic gel followed by an anaesthetic injection. Once numb, they will remove the old filling or decayed tissue with a dental drill or air abrasion tools.

Your dentist will then clean the cavity before filling it back in with your choice of material. Once filled, they may perform a clean and polish to smooth over the top. Usually the advice is to refrain from eating or drinking very hot or cold foods or liquids which may trigger the sensitivity in your tooth or surrounding teeth. Generally, 24 hours is long enough for discomfort to subside but with larger cavities this could be a little longer as when the anaesthetic wears off you may feel some soreness.

On your next visit, your dentist will check the filling and ensure everything is still in place and that you are experiencing no problems with the tooth.



The FAQs and Benefits of Filling Treatment

Here are some of the most popular questions surrounding dental filling treatments.

Should I replace my silver fillings?

Silver fillings are the most common, often being the most cost-efficient for the patient. Generally they are fine to leave indefinitely or at least until they become cracked or worn which, unfortunately could happen over a long period of time. The recommendation at that point would always be to replace them with composite fillings which are more durable and can last a lot longer.


What can tooth coloured fillings be used for?

Composite resin is used primarily for fillings but it can also be used to resolve other dental issues, including chips, enamel damage and discolouration. Bonding is the procedure which can resolve these aesthetic problems, including gaps and erosion.


Are teeth more sensitive with tooth coloured fillings?

Composite material used in tooth coloured resin causes no sensitivity. You can still feel sensations to a point (hot or cold drinks for example) but generally composite fillings don’t create additional sensitivity.


How long does it take to receive composite fillings?

Normally, a session for our composite fillings treatment in Belgravia at our surgery can take around an hour, depending on the individual needs of the patient.


Will my teeth be out of action after receiving a composite filling?

Dental filing recovery will depend on the size of the cavity. You should be able to eat after the procedure without discomfort, although it’s recommended you give it a few hours just to allow the anaesthetic that may have been used to wear off. This can cause soreness afterwards for a short time but each case will vary. We will advise on a case by case basis for dental filling aftercare and what to be aware of after a filling procedure.


Will my composite filling stain over time?

Although you can’t prevent staining 100% of the time, composite fillings should remain “tooth coloured” for a long time, if not for the life of the filling itself. As most fillings are within the mouth on the top of the side of a tooth, you shouldn’t notice any particular staining and it should remain natural-looking.


How many materials are available for fillings?

There are numerous materials that can be used for fillings. Silver amalgam and tooth coloured composite are the most popular materials used but dentists can also use Gold, Ceramic and Glass.