Silver (called amalgams) and resin (called composite) are two of the most common choices for filling materials. When considering which filling is appropriate, there are differences beyond the mere visual. With amalgams, the concern is often with mercury which is used in placing silver fillings. While there has been no direct link to health issues with mercury in the amalgam, it still remains a potential risk.
Composites are virtually invisible, bond to the tooth structure and protect and increase the overall strength of the tooth being restored. Amalgam fillings cannot do this. The choice of fillings depends on balancing appearances, longevity, strength, and in some cases, the cost.
The following information will help you decide which filling is best suited for you.
Silver fillings used to restore teeth have been used for almost one hundred years. While there is mercury present in the filling material, it is not pure elemental mercury. Instead it is compounded with silver, copper, tin, zinc, and other materials to form the amalgam. In the past century, there has been no direct evidence showing silver fillings to be harmful to patients.
Silver offers strength, longevity and up to 25% cost savings over comparable composite fillings. The main argument against silver fillings is appearances. Depending on tooth location, the silver filling will be less attractive than a more natural-looking composite filling. Also, some patients dislike the metallic feeling in their mouths. Over time, like most metals, silver fillings will eventually corrode and leak, causing decay underneath them.
Silver fillings removed from your mouth must be filtered out of our waste water, collected and disposed of as a hazardous waste.
Composite fillings are resins that are "filled" with other inorganic materials. This compound makes the filling more resistant to wear, color adjustable, and easier to polish. The advantages of choosing a composite filling include a more natural appearance, strengthening of the filled tooth, and creating a better seal. Because composites are bonded filling, the bonding allows the filling to be smaller than a comparable silver filling. This is because silver requires a minimum size to resist breaking or falling out. The bonding also makes the filling seal to the tooth and so no leakage occurs as in older silver fillings. The disadvantages of composite fillings are weaker strength, though this is constantly being improved but in some cases it may last a shorter period than a silver filling. In addition, a composite filling may cost 25 % more than similar silver fillings.
Composites suffer from what is called dissolution, dissolving slowly over time in your mouth regardless of whether you chew with them directly. Instead, amalgam fillings will eventually corrode and leak. The older composite fillings can discolor over time to a yellowish tinge and can get pitted leaving pinholes on the surface, staining permanently. The newer generation composites have essentially eliminated these problems.
In our commitment to the health of our environment, our patients’ and staffs' well-being, we have virtually discontinued the use of Amalgams. We will be glad to discuss any concerns you may have regarding your filling choices. Be assured that your safety and health are our greatest concern. See our related section on Empress Crowns for more information on the types of crowns available.