Amalgam Fillings vs. Composite Fillings
I always offer my patients a choice when it comes to the material I use to repair their teeth, but not many people are aware of the distinct benefits of each type of dental filling. When you get a cavity, there are a few ways to protect the tooth from further decay. After removing some decay and a gentle cleanup, there’s a new vacancy in your tooth that needs to be filled in order to protect the tooth’s integrity and the sensitive root underneath. The two most popular dental fillings are the silver amalgam filling and the composite resin filling. I stopped using amalgam fillings 10 years ago even though I have a few in my own mouth. But today, at least 47% of dentists still use amalgam fillings. Here are some facts to help you make an informed decision about the fillings in your mouth.
Silver Amalgam Fillings – Pros and Cons
Silver amalgam fillings are made of an alloy of mercury, silver, tin, zinc and copper. Silver fillings have been used for over 100 years because of the metal’s durability, but recently amalgam fillings have been getting a lot of attention for their potential health concerns. A few years ago, the FDA upgraded them from low risk to a moderate risk treatment due to published research on the health effects of mercury in our fillings. At my office, we take a conservative approach to amalgam removal. If the mercury-silver amalgam filling is decayed or compromised, we will replace it with a composite resin filling. We dispose of the filling in our amalgam separator to prevent the mercury from entering Chicago’s sewage and water-supply. We won’t remove amalgam fillings unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
· Metal fillings have a longer lifespan
· Resistant to damage from chewing and grinding
· Cheaper treatment
· Larger filling size
· Metallic appearance
· Possible health hazards and allergic reaction
Composite Fillings – Pros and Cons
Composite resin fillings are the most popular type of filling used in modern dental practice. I place more composite fillings than any other type of fillings. They are tooth-colored fillings that replicate the natural appearance of healthy enamel, making them a more discreet cavity treatment. They form a chemical bond with the tooth for a more reliable fit. They don’t have the same risks as mercury-silver amalgam fillings and are more attractive than metal fillings. Because composite resin fillings are so versatile, we recommend them for most types of cavities.
· Chemical bonding to enamel
· Tailored to match natural color of teeth
· Less tooth removed for filling
· Shorter lifespan compared to metal fillings
· Longer procedure time (+20 minutes)
· More post-operative sensitivity