Aesthetic Dental Fillings: Types, Benefits, and Considerations

Aesthetic dental fillings play several roles, from restoring the function of teeth to inhibiting the spread of tooth decay and addressing cosmetic concerns in misshaped teeth. But their design and long-term maintenance are much different from traditional silver (amalgam) fillings.

Key takeaways:
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    White fillings bond closely with tooth enamel, making them minimally invasive to teeth.
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    Materials used to make white fillings are matched to the patient’s tooth.
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    Some white fillings contain fluoride, making them helpful for people suffering from recurring tooth decay.
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    Aesthetic dental fillings serve both a functional and aesthetic role for people with decayed or damaged teeth.

What is an aesthetic filling made from?

Most aesthetic fillings are referred to as “white” or “composite” filings. Composite dental fillings are made from a mixture of glass or quartz filler and resin. The resin is usually a type of plastic that’s reinforced with other materials to increase its strength and durability. The glass or quartz filler is added to the resin to give the composite filling a natural, tooth-like appearance.

Some types of aesthetic fillings also contain fluoride particles for a slow release that reduces the risk of recurring tooth decay in highly cavity-prone individuals.

One of the main benefits of composite fillings is that they can be closely matched to the color of the surrounding teeth, making them less noticeable than other types of fillings. They are often used to repair teeth that are more visible when a person smiles or talks, whereas a traditional silver filling would be less appealing.

Composite fillings are also used to fill in gaps between teeth or to cover small chips, gaps, or other aesthetic flaws.

How do aesthetic fillings work?

Composite fillings bond directly to the tooth enamel, which helps to strengthen the tooth and limit altering the healthy structure underneath. This is quite the contrast from silver fillings, which require the removal of a larger amount of tooth structure, which can weaken the tooth and make it more susceptible to future problems and restorative needs.

These aesthetic fillings are generally considered to be a better choice for the tooth because they can be closely matched to the color of the tooth and bond directly to the tooth structure. In turn, the fillings are smaller, which helps to preserve the natural strength and integrity of the tooth.

How is an aesthetic filling placed?

When you get an aesthetic filling, your dentist will remove any active decay and gently roughen or condition the outermost tooth layer in that space. Next, they will use a shade guide to match the composite material with your specific smile. From there, the white filling is hand shaped onto your tooth to recreate the tooth structure or enhance the shape of the enamel at that space.

Once the desired shape and texture are achieved, a bright light is used to cure the composite material to the tooth.

What are the different types of aesthetic fillings?

There are three types of aesthetic fillings. Below we discuss their benefits and use cases.

Composite (white) restorative fillings

A traditional aesthetic filling is one that’s used for restoring areas of tooth decay or other structural damage. Instead of a visible metal filling, a white composite is filled into the tooth and shaped so that the tooth’s natural form is restored.

White fillings are durable and functional, allowing you to return to your normal diet and activities while halting the spread of tooth decay. By placing aesthetic fillings as early as possible, the cycle of decay is prevented from spreading into adjacent teeth.

Cosmetic dental bonding

Cosmetic bonding involves using aesthetic filling material to reshape healthy teeth with visible flaws or concerns, such as uneven tooth enamel, small gaps between teeth, or misshaped structures that detract from your overall smile. These aesthetic fillings are usually referred to as “bonding” and are performed on an elective basis. By reshaping or covering the concerning teeth, the modest procedure can leave a lasting aesthetic enhancement to that person’s overall smile.

Lab-made inlays and onlays

Although not a filling per se, these lab-made partial crowns are sometimes called indirect fillings and are used to repair larger areas of significant tooth damage. These aesthetic fillings are made from ceramic or porcelain rather than composite; they are crafted in a lab or by a milling machine rather than hand shaped onto the tooth by a dentist.

Benefits of white fillings

Some of the most notable benefits of aesthetic filings include:

  • Matched to your teeth for optimal aesthetics.
  • Blend in with your tooth structure, so they’re essentially indistinguishable.
  • Minimally invasive to tooth structure.
  • Available in a variety of colors and shades.
  • Do not contain visible metals or mercury.
  • Easy to care for.
  • Maintain their color over time.
  • Useful for both restorative and aesthetic purposes.
  • Fast cosmetic results.

Are there disadvantages of white fillings?

The two most common disadvantages of aesthetic fillings are staining around the restoration and chipping of the material. Because composite is not as durable as porcelain, it has the potential to chip, especially if you have a teeth-grinding or bruxism habit. Additionally, stain particles from coffee, tea, or smoking may cause noticeable discoloration around the edges of a white filling, detracting from its overall appearance.

Does insurance cover aesthetic fillings?

Most dental insurance companies will cover at least a portion of restorative white fillings used to treat decay or broken teeth. Elective aesthetic fillings — such as bonding over a gap between teeth — may not fall under your specific plan’s benefit schedule. Your dentist can provide an itemized care plan with estimated insurance benefits and out-of-pocket fees, as applicable.

Should you get a white filling?

While aesthetic fillings are appropriate for all ages, there are still some criteria to meet before getting a composite restoration. If you have a tooth that requires aesthetic attention or decay in a highly visible tooth, talk to your dentist about whether or not an aesthetic filling is right for you.

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Curtis M. Wishart Curtis M. Wishart
prefix 5 days ago
When you smile, the first thought you have shouldn’t be about the colour of your teeth. Dental restoration offers more than structural support.
By using the latest dental advancements, restoring dental strength while maintaining aesthetic beauty can go hand-in-hand with white tooth fillings.