Tooth decay and caries can often be the result of multiple factors which lead to the weakening of the structure of a tooth.
If you suspect you may have a cavity, it's important to see your dentist as soon as possible. When detected early, your dentist can intervene to fill any cavities, as well as preventing decay from causing further damage to the tooth.
When left unchecked, cavities can lead to pain such as tooth ache, as well as heightened sensitivity when eating or drinking. The usual treatment method for cavities is a dental filling, to fill the hole caused by decay and level out the biting surface of a tooth.
While you may be familiar with the traditional metallic (amalgam or mercury) fillings, another option to treat cavities is white fillings.
Why do some people need fillings?
At any given time throughout the day there are various bacteria which live in our mouths, which can be removed by proper brushing and flossing. Food residue, especially from products containing sugar, fuels the production of acid by the bacteria.
Gradually, when this acid remains on our teeth for too long, or when it becomes too much for the saliva in our mouths to neutralise, acid begins to work away at the hard enamel coating on our teeth, causing decay and eventually cavities.
When you go to see your dentist, they will be able to assess whether the health and strength of your teeth could be helped by dental fillings.
Why the change from traditional fillings?
Traditionally, silver-coloured fillings known as amalgam or mercury fillings have been used as a treatment for cavities. In spite of the recent uncertainty surrounding possible health detriments of using mercury in amalgam fillings, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) states that it has found no scientific evidence to support claims of any mercury fillings posing health risks.
Therefore, amalgam fillings are still used by dentists throughout the world, but some patients are now choosing white fillings for their more natural appearance and the way their colour blends with the rest of their teeth.
In addition, the nature of amalgam fillings can mean an elevated risk of the teeth fracturing due to the expansion of amalgam fillings over time. The way white fillings are applied means that they are bonded to your teeth, and work to hold the tooth together, making tooth fracture less likely.
Unlike amalgam fillings, white fillings can be shaped to restore the appearance of damaged teeth, as well as closing gaps between front teeth. White fillings also provide an alternative for those who are allergic to mercury.
Can I have my amalgam fillings replaced with white fillings?
If you're interested in replacing any of your existing amalgam fillings, or have any concerns over the health effects of your fillings, visit your dentist. They will be able to assess your eligibility for white fillings, as well as checking up on your overall oral health.
For any patients whose condition isn't suitable for white fillings, your dentist will be able to recommend alternative treatments such as an inlay, onlay or a crown.