on November 09, 2022

When our patients have cavities, all the options are placed on the table to discuss with parents. These Options for materials are based on evidence-based research and it is second nature for me to compile these findings without even being aware I'm doing it or articulating out loud that I have evaluated them. My evidence-based research consists of three parts: my 10 years of clinical experience, the most up-to-date clinical research, and patient preferences.  Many of these factors include the caries risk of a patient (which is the identification of risk factors that cause dental decay), any anomalies the teeth may have, medical history, dental history, parent's dental history, perceptions of dentistry, parent acceptance of treatment, and family engagement with dentistry. There are so many other factors, but I'm trying to keep this blog from getting too daunting lol. 

Knowing all of this, an option that is usually on the table but not really recommended all the time are the notorious good looking white fillings. 

The question is, are white fillings as good as they look? 

The good news is that a white filling definitely and undoubtedly looks great and there are times they are a great option. You will not be able to tell your child has had any dental work. However, according to the AAPD, studies have shown that white fillings on baby teeth last on average 2 years! 

What does that statement mean? 

It means that if a white filling is done on a baby tooth, the likelihood that a new cavity will form surrounding the filling or the filling will fail is high within a 2 year span. It is important to understand how much lifespan the tooth in question has when weighing this option. For example, back baby teeth tend to fall out when a child is around 12-13 years old. If we detect a cavity on a back baby tooth at 6 years old, we know that baby tooth will be there for another 6-7 years.  If a white filling is chosen, according to research, this white filling will likely fail when the child is on average 8 years old. This means more time in the chair for the child, more expenses, and possibly emotional distress for the family to have work done over again. If the child is 10 years old, a back baby tooth may only be there for another 2-3 years. A white filling may be a great option because if it fails in 2 years, the tooth will be ready to fall out soon. 

There are so many other factors that come into play when deciding on restorative materials, which we didn't dive into depth,  but these are just examples to better understand risks and expectations of the filling's abilities and its potential to last for the patient. 

So are fillings as good as they look?

It depends. It's a great conversation to have with your pediatric dentist.