Fillings are used when decay is found in the tooth. The decay is removed and replaced with the filling to protect the integrity of the tooth. Whereas years ago the only option for a filling was silver (amalgam), now there is a more cosmetic option. Tooth-colored fillings are called composites.
Amalgam fillings do not stick or adhere to the tooth. An amalgam filling is placed in a tooth with mechanical undercuts to prevent the amalgam from dislodging. With a composite filling, the tooth is conditioned and rinsed to allow the composite to bond or adhere to the tooth. The composite is applied in layers using a curing light in between the layers. This process actually helps to strengthen the tooth structure. Since the material is opaque, the dentist can x-ray right through the filling to see any problem areas. The biggest difference you will see is that an amalgam filling is silver, and a composite filling is tooth-colored.
Direct composite resin fillings offer a conservative, economical, and aesthetic solution to treat anterior (front) aesthetic problems and restore selected posterior (back) teeth. With proper procedures for placement, composite fillings have excellent longevity.
Most insurance companies cover 80% of the cost of white fillings for anterior and posterior teeth.
In some instances when the restoration is too large, the treatment of choice is amalgam (silver fillings) or possibly a crown, which is made by a lab. Because a composite filling can only be placed in the tooth if it is completely dry, it cannot be used when decay is found under the gums. In these instances the best option may be an amalgam filling or even a crown.