White, or "tooth-colored" fillings are a dramatic improvement over the mercury-based metal fillings of the past. A skilled cosmetic dentist can use resin composite material to custom-shape fillings that match the color of surrounding teeth so closely that they are nearly invisible, eliminating the tell-tale black fillings that plagued many patients in the past.
The benefits of white or tooth-colored fillings are not merely cosmetic. Fillings made from resin composite not only provide a more natural-looking result, but they are also more heat resistant than metal fillings, ensuring more comfort for the patient and minimizing the potential of further tooth breakage. Furthermore, since resin fillings bond directly to the tooth surface and can be molded to the exact shape needed, they allow for less leakage than metal fillings and thus offer more protection and support to damaged teeth.
Traditional metal fillings are made from an amalgam that consists of roughly 50% mercury, a metal which has proven to be extremely toxic. Over time, the mercury from amalgam or metal fillings may leak into the patient's body, which some medical professionals believe can lead to birth defects, mental disorders, or neurodegenerative diseases. While the debate on the safety of mercury fillings is ongoing, many dentists have chosen to work entirely with resin or tooth-colored fillings to eliminate any risk.
While tooth-colored fillings cost more than traditional metal amalgam fillings, most patients find that the cosmetic and structural benefits they provide are well worth the extra cost. Not only do most patients opt to fill cavities with tooth-colored filings, many patients may also opt to replace existing metal fillings with tooth-colored fillings to ensure a more natural look to their smile.