Usually, when you’re getting a dental filling, it isn’t something you’re doing by choice. What you can choose, however, is what kind of filling you get. Most people have seen the metallic amalgam fillings that are sometimes used on molars, but modern restorative dentists tend to prefer composite resin for their fillings. If you want to know why that is, here’s the difference between composite fillings and amalgams, and why you should choose the former.
What are Amalgam Fillings?
Dental fillings are one of the oldest treatments in restorative dentistry, and amalgam fillings are the way that they were traditionally done. The “amalgam” is a mixture of various metals, usually with either gold or silver as their primary component. These metals are not even remotely tooth-colored, so even fillings on your back teeth can be fairly obvious.
What are Tooth-Colored Composite Fillings?
While amalgam fillings are time-tested, tooth-colored fillings represent the forefront of oral medicine. Instead of metal, teeth are filled with an acrylic resin that’s been reinforced with glass quartz or another powdered ceramic. The result is a filling that is nearly indistinguishable from your natural tooth.
For a long time, composite resin wasn’t very durable, so its use in restorative dentistry was restricted to the front teeth. However, after years of study, it’s possible to create tooth-colored composites that are nearly as strong as gold or silver. Its use on molars is now common.
Why Should I Prefer Tooth-Colored Composite?
Obviously, tooth-colored resin has cosmetic advantages over metal amalgam. Most people won’t be able to tell you’ve even had a restoration, even if the filling is visible. However, there are also several non-cosmetic benefits to composite resin. Here are a few:
- Metal fillings have been known to expand and contract due to temperature, so people who have them often experience heat and cold sensitivity. Resin fillings do not have that problem.
- Traditionally, amalgam fillings were made with mercury, leading to heavy metal poisoning in people with older restorations. This is now rare. That said, some dentists still use mercury in their amalgam fillings. Composite resin doesn’t carry that risk.
- Some patients have allergies to gold or silver. They may not even be aware of it until they get their restorations. Acrylic resin is hypoallergenic, as are the other materials often used in tooth-colored fillings.
There’s nothing wrong with amalgam fillings; many people have them, and they are incredibly durable. That said, tooth-colored composite fillings have made them almost completely obsolete. If you need a dental filling or are getting one replaced, it’s best to go with the latest and greatest.
About the Author
Dr. Mike Asay’s favorite thing about his job is being able to take care of people. When you visit his office, you won’t be treated like just another pair of teeth, but as a person with unique needs. Dr. Asay is a graduate of the Baylor College of Dentistry, and he’s a member of both the Texas Dental Association and the Seattle Study Club. If you have any questions about dental fillings, we can be reached at our website or by phone at (512) 244-2796.