When it comes to fillings, our patients have two distinct choices. Amalgam (silver) fillings are the traditional choice and composite (white) fillings are the new more popular choice. Both materials offer safe and long-lasting restoration for teeth with minor defects such as cavities or broken enamel.
Amalgam fillings have been used by dentists for more than a century and is the most thoroughly researched and tested restorative material among all those in use. It is durable, easy to use, highly resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other materials. For those reasons, it remains a valued treatment option. Amalgam fillings have the approval of the ADA for use in a patient’s mouth.
Because amalgam fillings can withstand very high chewing loads, they are particularly useful for restoring molars in the back of the mouth where chewing load is greatest. They are also useful in areas where a cavity preparation is difficult to keep dry during the filling replacement, such as in deep fillings below the gum line. Amalgam fillings, like other filling materials, are considered biocompatible and are well tolerated by patients.
Disadvantages of amalgam include possible short-term sensitivity to hot or cold after the filling is placed. The silver-colored filling is not as natural looking as one that is tooth-colored, especially when the restoration is near the front of the mouth, and shows when the patient laughs or speaks. It also may be necessary to remove more tooth structure to accommodate an amalgam filling than a composite filling.
Composite fillings are a mixture of glass or quartz filler in a resin medium that produces a tooth-colored filling. They are sometimes referred to as composites or filled resins. Composite fillings provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small-to-mid size restorations that need to withstand moderate chewing pressure. Less tooth structure is removed when the tooth is prepared, and this may result in a smaller filling than that of an amalgam. Composites can also be “bonded” or adhesively held in a cavity, often allowing the dentist to make a more conservative repair to the tooth. Excellent aesthetic results are achieved with composite fillings, and often are completely invisible.
It generally takes longer to place a composite filling than what is required for an amalgam filling, and therefore composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam fillings. Composite fillings require a cavity that can be kept clean and dry during filling and they are subject to stain and discoloration over time. Composite fillings are most often used to fill cavities, replace old fillings, restore broken cusps of teeth, and to replace worn enamel.
If you have questions about our filling materials, please contact Smile Missoula for more information.