The dentist should inform every patient of the available choices of dental fillings and keep them as informed as possible on the pros and cons of each type of dental fillings. While older and traditional dentists would have the tendency to use “silver fillings” commonly known today as amalgam, the patients have the right to make their own choice, say between amalgam and composite white fillings.
Because of the fast changes in our technology, dentists and patients now have a number of choices when it comes to the materials to be used to fill the cavities in the tooth. Choices include natural tooth-colored resin-based composite filling material and the more traditional amalgam or silver filling. The emergence of new filling materials has presented its own benefits without disregarding or eliminating the necessity for using traditional materials especially in terms of strength, durability and cost.
The following compares the traditional dental amalgam filling and the new resin-based composite or white dental fillings in terms of benefits and disadvantages.
Dental Amalgam or Silver Filling
Dental amalgam is a mixture of silver, tin, copper and mercury. Fifty percent of the compound is mercury, the amount necessary to bind the metals together for a strong, durable and hard filling. Over the years, no other metal has been found to have the same exact binding property or capability that allows easy manipulation when filling a tooth cavity. Traditional dentists find amalgam as their preferred dental filling material for the following reasons:
- They are generally less expensive. Composite fillings require special manipulation skill and expertise and expensive material cost. Amalgam costs considerably lower than composite.
- Easy manipulation. Placing amalgam in the tooth cavity will not require special training or skills. Any General dentist can perform the job without difficulty.
- No tooth isolation required. A silver amalgam filling does not require for a tooth to be filled to be isolated from saliva while the placement procedure is ongoing. Some patients may find it difficult to keep the tooth isolated while being filled as required by composite fillings. With amalgam filling, the patient has no discomfort in that sense.
- The amalgam filling by itself is a stronger material, although it weakens the tooth. Amalgam or silver fillings are found to last longer than composite or other mercury-free fillings.
The major downside of amalgam filling is its high mercury content aside from the other metal composition. Mercury is known to be a toxic material by itself.
Resin-Based Composite Filling
Ceramic and plastic compounds are the main components of resin composite fillings. Having the property to mimic the appearance of natural teeth, composite fillings have been used in front teeth for many years. For the dentists of this generation, preference may lean towards the use of composite or white fillings for the following reasons:
- Composite fillings have the property to restore the original strength of the tooth unlike in amalgam which weakens the tooth over time.
- Composite fillings bond to the tooth and thus prevent the tooth from breaking. It is more cost-effective in the long run.
- Composite fillings have the property to mimic the appearance of natural tooth. Hence, if used to fill cavity, it restores the natural look of the tooth.
- Teeth filled with composite fillings are less sensitive to hot and cold than teeth restored with amalgam.
- Composite fillings have no mercury content and therefore it is not toxic.
- Composite fillings require less removal of tooth structure, preserving good teeth. For new cavities, the size of the hole made for the filling can be significantly smaller with composite fillings.
The major downside to composite fillings is cost since the material is expensive than the silver fillings and as such insurance companies don’t normally pay for composite fillings on back teeth.