About 15 years ago, I allowed a dentist to place white fillings in my teeth, which turned out to be a big mistake. My teeth became very sensitive, and I had to have all of them redone by a different dentist. At that same time, the original dentist also put “preventative” fillings in two of my wisdom teeth. This was supposed to protect those teeth from ever getting cavities, but now the filling material has completely worn away and my wisdom teeth look awful underneath the places where the fillings used to be. The teeth are really ugly and stained.
What kind of filling should I get to replace the white ones. The white fillings just don’t seem to work for me, but my current dentist doesn’t even do the old-fashioned silver ones anymore. Should I find a different dentist?
Julia in Chappell, Nebraska
The white fillings are not the problem – the issue is the faulty technique that was used to place them.
White composite fillings are more challenging to place than silver amalgam fillings (also called mercury fillings), it is true. Very strict protocols must be adhered to, and the area where the filling is being placed must be kept absolutely isolated from saliva. If this had all been done properly when your original fillings were placed, you would not have had any problems.
Silver amalgam fillings are easier to place, but there is a reason many dentists no longer place them. The material used in the amalgam material is more than 50% mercury by weight. A great deal of controversy currently surrounds the use of amalgam fillings, as the current research is inconclusive as to whether or not the mercury in them is potentially harmful to the body. Many dentists have decided to err on the side of caution and simply place white filling instead.
Health and safety issues aside, white fillings quite simply look a great deal more attractive than dark, ugly amalgam. Less of the tooth needs to be removed for white fillings than with amalgams, and the material itself bonds with your tooth, making the entire structure stronger and more stable over time.
The key to success with white fillings is to make absolutely sure that the doctor placing them knows what he or she is doing. Placing white fillings is an exacting procedure, and requires specific training. Ask your dentist about this, and make sure you are comfortable with the answer. If your dentist ONLY does white fillings, then very likely they are both well trained and skilled in their placement. But do check, just the same.
If you do feel uncomfortable with your dentist’s skill set for this procedure, I would suggest finding a new dentist, since your current one does not do amalgam fillings, which leaves you no options.