Q What are amalgam fillings?
A Amalgam or silver fillings are the metal coloured
fillings that many people have. Amalgam was the traditional material
used for fillings for many years.
Q Why should I consider white fillings?
A Most people have fillings of one sort or another in
their mouths. Nowadays fillings are not only functional, but can be
natural looking as well. Many people don’t want silver fillings that
show when they laugh or smile because they are more conscious about the
way they look.
Q Can I get them on the NHS?
A The National Health Service will not usually allow
white fillings on the biting surfaces of back teeth. However, this does
not apply to the sides of back teeth or to any front teeth.
There is a slight chance that some people may be sensitive to the metals
used in silver amalgam fillings. If this sensitivity is proven, it may
be best to replace the amalgam fillings with another type. (In very
exceptional cases these replacements may be available on the NHS, if a
consultant decides that a patient is extremely sensitive to these
materials and asks for them to be replaced.)
Q Are they expensive?
A Because many white fillings are only available
privately, costs can vary quite a lot from dentist to dentist. Costs
usually depend on the size and type of white filling used and the time
it takes to complete the treatment. Costs may also vary from region to
region. As a guide, white fillings start from around £40 each, but your
dentist will be able to give you an idea of the cost before you agree to
Q Are they as good as silver amalgam
A White fillings have always been considered less long
silver amalgam fillings. But there are now new materials available with
properties comparable to silver amalgam, and these are proving to be
very successful. The life expectancy of a white filling can depend
greatly on where it is in your mouth and how heavily your teeth come
together when you bite. Your dentist can advise you on the life
expectancy of your fillings. However, any fillings provided on the NHS
are automatically guaranteed for one year.
Q Is it worth replacing my amalgam fillings with white ones?
A It is usually best to change fillings only when your
dentist decides that an old filling needs replacing. If so you can ask
to have it replaced in a tooth-coloured material.
Some dentists prefer not to put white fillings in back teeth, as they
are not always successful. One way around this would be to use crowns or
inlays, but this can mean removing more of the tooth and can be more
Q What are tooth-coloured fillings made of?
A This can vary, but they are mainly made of glass
particles, synthetic resin and a setting ingredient. Your dentist should
be able to give you more information about the particular material that
Q Where can I get them done?
A Most dental practices offer white fillings as a
normal part of the treatment they give you. However, white fillings are
classed as a ‘cosmetic’ treatment, and you can therefore only have them
if you pay for them.
Q Are there any alternatives to fillings?
A Adhesive dentistry is another form of this treatment.
This involves bonding the filling to the tooth. The dentist has to
remove less of the tooth, which is obviously better.
As we have already said, there are alternatives such as crowns and
inlays although they can cost a lot more. Veneers can be used on front
teeth instead of crowns or fillings.