As bacteria dissolves the enamel of our teeth, they create cavities. In order to repair this damage, your dentist will remove all of the bacteria from the cavity and disinfect it. Then to ensure that new bacteria cannot take refuge in the cavity, your dentist will seal the cavity using a filling.
There are two major types of materials used for fillings. For most of our lives fillings have been made from a material called Amalgam. Amalgam is a metalic material that is formed through a combination of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. This material is very strong and can last a life time if taken care of. In the last decade, resin composite fillings have become very popular. These alternative fillings can be matched to your teeth, so that the color does not stand out.
What are the main differences between Amalgam fillings and Composite fillings?
The most obvious difference between these two types of fillings is their material. Amalgam fillings are metal. These are the traditional fillings that appear silver in the mouth. Resin composite fillings can be colored to match your natural tooth color. However, composite fillings are not as strong as their metalic siblings and as such are more likely to dislodge when installed on the rear teeth.
So I should use an Amalgam filling?
Well, yes and no. Both types of fillings have their advantages and disadvantages. It is best to consult with your dentists about the different options.
With that said, there are more than 1 billion amalgam fillings installed each year. Dentist will use amalgam fillings for a variety of reasons.
- They are easier to install
- They tend to be stronger than composite fillings, which is vital for chewing
- They tend to be more affordable
- The appointment time is usually shorter
- They are a proven technology and are used all over the world
Resin Composite fillings are typically preferred by patients and dentists for fillings that will be placed on the front teeth. Since these teeth are visible, most people hope to avoid having a metallic smile.
Isn’t mercury poisonous though?
Mercury is a toxic metal. However, the type of metallic mercury that is used in fillings has been researched for more than 100 years, and everyone seems to agree that it is harmless. The FDA has even suggested that replacing amalgam fillings with composite fillings is an unnecessary risk that has the potential to do more harm that good. For that reason, amalgam fillings should only be removed if absolutely necessary.