White & Silver Fillings
White filling materials have improved hugely over the last 10 years. This means that white fillings are now a strong, aesthetic, mercury-free alternative to silver fillings. White fillings are chemically and mechanically bonded to teeth, making leakage, a problem that can occur with silver fillings, less of an issue. As white fillings need to be applied in layers, they are more time-consuming than silver fillings. This, in combination with a higher material cost, means they are a more expensive option than silver fillings.
Benefits of White Fillings:
- Tooth decay can often be spotted earlier. The white colour allows staining from decay to be more easily spotted around the edges of the cavity.
- White fillings are less likely to cause tooth cracking. They are glued to the natural tooth structure creating an adhesive force. This evenly distributes the effect of chewing across the tooth surface reducing the likelihood of fractures occurring.
Silver fillings are a tried and tested method for filling teeth. They are very strong, but can be unsightly, can cause what is known as “amalgam” staining of the teeth, and can suffer from leakage underneath the fillings.
Many people are concerned about the mercury content of silver fillings. As silver fillings are quicker to place, they are a less expensive option than white fillings. Alternatives to fillings are inlays / onlays and crowns.
Should I have my old silver fillings replaced with a new white filling?
This is a very common question. However, it is very difficult to give a definitive yes or no answer.
Many people are concerned about the mercury content in silver fillings but there has been no conclusive research to confirm that silver mercury fillings are harmful to your health as a consequence of mercury leeching from old silver fillings.
However, if you are still concerned about the mercury in your silver fillings, please discuss your concerns with us. We can remove the old fillings whilst having a rubber dam (link to rubber dam) in place to minimise mercury absorption.
A European Commission has determined that the use of amalgam silver fillings should be phased out by 2030 for all people and by 2018 for children under 15 and for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Other concerns include:
- It can be difficult to spot tooth decay under the filling due to the opaque nature of these fillings. This can result in later detection of decay and could require a larger filling or root canal treatment in some cases.
- Silver fillings can be a contributing factor in teeth cracking.
These fillings do not give the tooth structure any strength but can act as a wedge between the natural tooth walls of the cavity. When you bite down on the tooth and the filling, over time, crack lines may appear leading to the eventual fracturing of the tooth. The risk is particularly high when the filling occupies over half the width of the tooth.