Amalgam Vs. Composite Fillings

Posted on: September 6, 2018

Dental technology has witnessed remarkable innovations recently, especially in restorative and cosmetic dentistry. It is now possible to obtain tooth restorations that have similar appearance, texture, and function of your natural teeth. When it comes to filling tooth cavities, the choice usually lies between the old silver amalgam and white composite fillings.

One of the most controversial questions in dentistry is, “which is the better option for filling cavities: amalgam or composite?" If appearance were the criteria, the white composite resin is the definite winner, but when it comes to their durability, amalgam fillings are the best. 

Amalgam Fillings

Dentists have used amalgam for over a century because the material is long-lasting (up to 15 years) and inexpensive. Also called silver filling, amalgam is manufactured from a mixture of silver, tin, copper, and mercury. Not only does amalgam solidify faster than composite, but it is much stronger and more accessible to place. 

However, the hardness of amalgam is not an advantage over composite resin because it is not good to fill the tooth with a material stronger than the tooth itself. There have been reported cases of crack lines in teeth with amalgam fillings due to the strength of the material. Although teeth with composite fillings crack, the instances are extremely rare. 

A significant concern that has created dissension among dental professionals is the presence of mercury (up to 50 percent) in amalgam fillings. Mercury helps to bind the metal elements to form a reliable and long-lasting filler, but when health issues occur, it can be hard to remove it as a suspect. In 2015, a study from Anglen suggested that occupational exposure to mercury from amalgam poses a threat of tremors in dentists. More studies on tremors and sclerosis are however required to prove this theory further.

Aside from potential health risk, amalgam does not have a natural look and can be unsightly if used in a front row tooth. 

Composite Filling

Composite resin is crafted from a mixture of plastic and glass. Since composite fillings have a white color, dentists often use them for front teeth to ensure a radiant and attractive smile. They are aesthetically pleasing but are costlier and can be double the price of silver amalgam.

During the filling procedure, the composite is filled in small deposits and laser light is used to solidify the layers. The dentist will then adjust the composite to the tooth’s shape. Although they have the better appearance than amalgam fillings, they are more prone to discoloration, especially if the person drinks tea or coffee. 

So, which one is better?

The two fillings – silver amalgam and composite resin – have their advantages and disadvantages. The final choice of filling material depends on the patient’s personal preferences and factors such as the tooth’s condition, tooth position, budget, and the desire to have a beautiful white smile. 

We are always here to help! 

If the dentist has recommended filling your cavity, you may be given a chance to select the filling material. Understanding the differences between the two materials will help you make a guided decision. 

Request an appointment in our Everett dentist office here:

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