When a cavity needs to be filled, there are certain options as to which you and/or your dentist will choose to fill the cavity. Among the choices, and most common, are natural tooth-colored materials such as resin-based composite fillings and the more traditional dental fillings such as those made of metal amalgam.
Amalgam filling is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper with mercury making up about 50 percent of the compound. Mercury is necessary to bind the metals together to provide a strong and durable filling.
Resin composite fillings are made of ceramic and plastic compounds. With more durable resin material available for only a decade, resins haven’t stood the test of time in heavy wear of chewing and grinding as in amalgams.
When dentists fill a cavity, they first remove the decay, thoroughly clean the area, and fill the cavity with a filling material. A good filling will last anywhere from 5 to 50 years. If you’re going to have a filling in your mouth for that long, it’s fair enough to want to know what it’s made of and how it compares to other types of fillings.
Benefits of Amalgam filling:
- Many dentist consider amalgam stronger than the resin-based composite
- Amalgam is less costly
- Fills in easily and materials in amalgam are safe and not harmful
Dentist will have to remove tooth structure in this process to ensure a long-lasting filling. Over time though, amalgam tends to break down and crack the teeth due to the metal expanding due to cold or hot weather. This may lead to more expensive treatment such as a crown or root canal.
Benefits of Resin Composite filling:
- Appearance is more like your natural teeth
- They bond directly to your tooth so not much tooth structure is removed
- Composite fillings do not put you at risk for cracks
- A composite filling can be replaced in parts without removing the entire filling
Filling a cavity with composite material requires more steps and more time in the dentist chair. Although more expensive, more and more patients are getting the tooth colored composite fillings. They look more natural and don’t require your dentist to remove as much as the tooth structure. The majority of dental health carriers may only pay for coverage of resin fillings that are visible in patients smile.
Deciding which type of filling to use is best made by the patient and the dentist, taking account the size, location of the cavity, patient history, cosmetic concerns and costs.