Composite resin and silver amalgam are the two most common filling materials used to restore decayed teeth. Since composite resin has continued to improve in recent years, more and more dentists have begun to recommend it.
What Is Composite Resin?
Composite resin is a tooth-colored plastic material that consists of resin mixed with microscopic particles of glass. It’s pliable when placed into the tooth, but hardens when cured. Some composites cure with a high-intensity light, while others self-harden. Composite resin fillings are bonded to the tooth structure.
The Advantages of Tooth-colored Composite Resins
- Composite resin fillings result in a natural-looking smile. The color can be closely matched to your natural teeth, so the restorations are nearly undetectable.
- Because the resin compound actually bonds to your tooth, the seal between the tooth and filling is tighter than amalgam, sealing out bacteria and decay more effectively.
- Bonding the composite resin to the tooth can make the restored tooth even stronger than it was before.
- Composite resin fillings can be made much smaller than an amalgam filling to restore the same amount of decay, so less natural tooth structure is lost.
- In the long run, since less tooth structure is lost in placing a composite resin filling, there’s less chance the tooth will break and require a crown.
- Continual improvements have made composite resins nearly as durable as amalgam fillings, particularly since we can choose from a variety of composite resin formulations and bonding materials for your specific situation.
The Disadvantages of Composite Resins
- In back teeth, where biting forces are greatest, composite resin fillings may not last as long as amalgam. But newer and stronger materials introduced, good and high qualilty composite resin fillings available to overcome this problem.
- A resin filling costs about 2-3 times more than a comparable amalgam filling. Most insurance benefits don’t cover the additional cost of composite fillings, so you must pay the difference.
What is Silver Amalgam?
Silver amalgam is a mixture containing about equal parts of mercury and silver alloy. The alloy contains silver, tin or tin mixed with copper, and sometimes indium, palladium, or zinc. When place in a tooth, it forms a hard, solid metal filling.
The Advantages of Amalgam
- Silver amalgam has historically been the more durable tooth filling material, particularly in teeth that are subjected to a lot of biting pressure.
- An amalgam filling costs considerably less than a comparable composite filling.
The Disadvantages of Amalgam
- Silver fillings are less attractive than tooth-colored composite resin fillings. For this reason, they’re usually not placed in teeth located near the front of your mouth.
- Like the mercury in a thermometer, the mercury in amalgam fillings expands and contracts with heat and cold. This can eventually cause the filling to fracture your tooth. If this happens, a crown will be required to restore its functionality.
- Silver fillings will eventually corrode, making the entire tooth look gray.
- There is still ongoing debate about the safety of amalgam, and some countries have banned its use.
Which to Choose?
When you compare the advantages and disadvantages of tooth-colored composite resins to silver amalgam, you can see that there are many more advantages and fewer disadvantages to composite resins. Overall, composite fillings are a more conservative treatment because we can often remove less of your natural tooth structure in preparation for their placement. They are very strong and durable, and their materials and technologies are continually being improved. And as an added benefit, they leave you with a beautiful smile.
Ultimately, the choice is a personal one for both dentists and patients. Are tooth-colored fillings worth the extra cost? Which filling material will prove to be most cost-effective in the long run?
We recommend that you research your options and discuss them with us, so we can choose the filling material that’s right for you.