Managing Wellness

Silver vs. White Fillings: What’s the Difference?

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Posted by October 4, 2016

Did you know that nearly all adults have had cavities at some point? A staggering 92 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth, while 26 percent have untreated cavities. Since cavities are so common, it’s a good idea to offer your employees a dental insurance plan that covers fillings. Many plans cover silver fillings, but not white fillings, which can be confusing for you and your employees.

Here’s what you need to know about silver vs. white fillings so, should you develop a cavity, you can make an informed decision about which type of filling is best for you.

Silver vs. White Fillings: The Basics

Silver-colored fillings—also called dental amalgams—are made of a combination of metals such as silver, tin, copper and mercury. White fillings—also called composite fillings—are made of plastic and ceramic. Both types of fillings can be used to repair cavities, but many dental insurance companies cover only silver fillings. This may concern some employees, but there are good reasons for this policy.

Silver vs. White Fillings: What’s the Difference?

Silver fillings are very durable, so they’re a good choice for teeth that need to withstand a lot of force, such as molars. The material used in silver fillings also hardens more quickly, so it’s easier for dentists to place it in moist areas, such as those beneath the gum line. Silver fillings are also less expensive than white fillings, so they’re good for your bottom line.

The main advantage of white fillings is their color. If you develop a cavity in a highly visible part of your mouth, you may prefer a tooth-colored filling. However, these fillings are weaker than silver fillings and might not last as long. Recurrent decay (the cavities that form underneath a filling) is also a bigger problem with white fillings than with silver fillings.

Choosing Fillings

Some employees may be concerned about the fact that silver fillings contain mercury. You can reassure them that silver fillings have been used for more than 100 years, and multiple studies have proven that they’re safe. Reputable associations, such as the World Health Organization, the American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all agree that silver fillings pose no risk. This is because the mercury is bound to other metals, which keeps it stable; plus, the mercury in dental fillings isn’t the same kind of mercury (methylmercury) that’s found in tuna or other fish and that can lead to health problems.

Another possible concern is that since silver fillings don’t match the color of your teeth, they won’t look attractive. Fortunately, cavities usually develop in areas that are not readily visible, so the color of the filling isn’t important. While it’s possible to get a cavity on the front surface of a tooth, these surfaces are easy to clean and therefore not prone to cavities. Cavities tend to develop in areas that are hard to clean with a toothbrush, such as the grooves of molars, underneath the gum line or around the edges of crowns.

Fillings and Wellness

Every year, American workers lose a whopping 164 million hours of work due to dental issues or visits to the dentist. While many people don’t think cavities are serious, untreated cavities can lead to complications, such as tooth pain, broken teeth or tooth abscesses, which can prevent employees from going to work.

Additionally, complications such as broken teeth or tooth abscesses are also harder to fix than simple cavities, and that translates to even more missed work days and trips to the dentist. Severe abscesses can even become life-threatening and require hospitalization. Offering a dental plan allows your employees to have their cavities repaired at an early stage, which is better for both your employees and your company.

Silver and white fillings both have their place in dentistry, but for most of your employees’ dental needs, silver fillings will be suitable. These fillings are stronger, easier to place and less expensive than white fillings.

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