Cosmetic dentistry treatments have become increasingly popular as people seek ways to improve their smile and raise their self-esteem. In many cases, the things people want to correct are either natural, like the alignment and whiteness of teeth, or due to damage, like teeth that are cracked or chipped.

Sometimes, however, a previous treatment that was performed for health reasons can be the cause of cosmetic issues. Silver amalgam fillings have long been used for their long-lasting strength, but it's not the most attractive material. When it's visible, it can cause people to dislike the way their teeth look.

If you're considering getting an old filling replaced with the newer white filling material, here's what you need to know.

The material

White fillings are placed using a composite material, with the common ingredient being a resin. The exact composition of the filling varies from one dentist to the next, but it will normally contain a mix of minerals and other substances to add strength.

Your dentist will be able to advise you on the benefits of the composite they use, and there might even be a choice of different types. If this is the case, they'll be able to recommend what's best for you, based on the teeth you need to have filled and how much of the material is required.

The process

Swapping fillings for new ones is fairly straightforward, but not quite as simple as it might sound in theory. Fillings are made to last a long time, so they don't come out easily, and getting them replaced is quite similar to getting a brand-new one.

Before the new filling can be placed, the old one will usually be removed with a drill. This will be done after administering anaesthetic to keep you comfortable and pain-free during the procedure and will usually be followed by carefully removing all the particles from your mouth so you don't swallow any.

Soon after you get your new white filling, you can go back to normal. You might notice a bit of sensitivity at first, but this will pass.

The future

Some people are concerned that white fillings don't last as long as the traditional silver amalgam ones. However, the materials used in them have improved a lot, which means the white composite material is still tough enough for the job.

As long as you look after your teeth and exercise some caution when eating hard or sticky foods, white fillings should be able to last about as long as silver amalgam fillings.

Contact a cosmetic dentist for additional information.