Why do I need a filling?
Your dentist may suggest that you need a filling, because you have tooth decay which has softened and weakened part of the tooth structure. The bacteria and the weakened part of the tooth structure needs to be removed, or the decay will become more extensive and your tooth will break down further. When the dentist has removed the bacteria and infected tooth structure, the cavity left is filled by either an amalgam (metal) filling, or a composite (white) filling. In some cases, the dentist may suggest a third type of filling material called glass ionomer cement.
What differences are there between amalgam (metal) and composite (white) fillings?
Amalgam fillings are often the material of choice for back teeth; this is because they are very strong and can withstand the forces of biting down and chewing food. Additionally, with back teeth, aesthetic considerations are less important because the fillings will not be very visible. We can offer white fillings for back teeth in some circumstances; your dentist will advise you on the appropriate material for each situation.
Composite fillings are white, and are the material of choice for front teeth. This is because the front teeth are under much less pressure when you are chewing, so the filling material does not need to be as strong. As your front teeth are very visible when talking and smiling, it is more important that the filling material blends in better with the colour of your teeth.