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Traditionally, dentists have used amalgam to fill cavities and for over 150 years, this mixture of metals has been used to restore oral health and prevent further decay. More recently, however, dental practices have transitioned into using composite resin for the increased health benefits as well as the aesthetic appeal of the natural colored material.
Amalgam fillings are silver in color and known for their longevity and strength. Many practices still offer this option for treating decay, as it’s affordable and covered by most dental insurances. Still, many patients and dental professionals have concerns over the release of low levels of mercury that occurs over time.
Most of the concern over amalgam fillings has to do with the amount of mercury used. There are acceptable limits that our bodies can handle; however, even small amounts of mercury can have a serious effect on specific patients, including those with allergies to metal or autoimmune disorders.
More dentists are choosing composite fillings instead of amalgam for their durability, their ability to closely match the color of natural teeth, and especially for their mercury-free nature. Composite fillings restore strength to the tooth, protect from decay, and last up to twenty years.
With the advances made in modern dentistry, alternative filling materials have been developed over the last 40 years. Many patients in need of a filling are opting for composite resin. Some of the benefits of composite fillings include:
Amalgam fillings are a blend of metals such as mercury, silver-tin alloy, and copper. This combination hardens to a dark silver color inside the tooth. Composite resin fillings are light in color and made with a mixture of acrylic and quartz fillers. This mixture hardens quickly, is more attractive than amalgam, and forms a strong bond to the tooth for protection and durability.
Because not all insurances cover composite fillings, many dental professionals still offer amalgam, particularly in cases where the filling is needed on molars or teeth that are less visible and experience more wear.
If you need help determining which type of filling would best fit your situation, talk with your dentist to get a recommendation. A dental professional will take into account the size and location of your cavity, overall cost, aesthetics, and your dental history before making a suggestion.