Dentists and patients today have several choices when it comes to selecting materials for fillings. Nevertheless, this does not eliminate the appropriateness of traditional dental materials such as amalgam, which is strong, durable and less expensive. Resin is a popular filling material due to its aesthetic properties, however the life span of a resin filling is less than that of amalgam. Porcelain is a superior filling option to both amalgam and resin, and has a better lifespan but costs more.

What is dental amalgam?

Dental amalgam (silver) fillings have been used as a reliable, efficient, long-lasting and safe filling material for over 100 years. Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper. Mercury is required to bind the metals together to provide a strong, hard, durable filling. After years of research, mercury continues to be the only element that will bind these metals together in such a way that it can be easily manipulated to fill a cavity.

Myth Busters

Myth: Dental Amalgam is dangerous, because mercury seeps into your mouth and poses a health risk.

Fact: The mercury in amalgam is bound in “intermetallic compounds” of silver, tin and copper. Once the amalgam filling has set, there is no liquid mercury present, and it does not present a health risk. ADA recommendations for fillings Dental amalgam has a 150-year proven track record of as one of the safest, most durable and least expensive materials used to a fill a cavity. Ongoing scientific studies conducted over the past 100 years continue to show that amalgam is not harmful. The Australian Dental Association (ADA) maintains that dental amalgam remains a safe, affordable and durable cavity filling choice for dental patients.

What are resin composite fillings?

Resin composite fillings are made of ceramic and plastic compounds. Because resins mimic the appearance of natural teeth, these fillings have been used in front teeth for years. When they first appeared years ago resin compounds weren’t strong enough to be used in back teeth, where high-pressure grinding and chewing required greater durability. In the past 10 years, technology has improved enough to allow the use of resin material in posterior or back teeth. Resin fillings do cost more than for a comparable amalgam filling, but have aesthetic advantages as they blend in with the natural teeth.

What about porcelain fillings?

These are a superior filling option to both resin and amalgam. They are very aesthetic ( tooth coloured ) and more durable than resin. They are also more expensive. Filling Replacement? There is no clinical justification for removing clinically satisfactory amalgam fillings and replacing them with resin composite. Unless there is a legitimate reason to replace the filling(cracked or decayed), it is better to keep the one you have.

Ask Dental Matters

Deciding which type of filling to use is best made by you and the dentist, taking into account various factors such as the size and location of the cavity, cosmetic concerns and cost. Ask your dentist to discuss all of the choices available for dental fillings and help you decide which alternative is right for you.