Today, several dental filling materials are available. Teeth can be filled with either amalgam (silver) or tooth-coloured, composite resin fillings. The location and extent of the decay, cost of filling material and your dentist's recommendation assist in determining the type of filling best for you.
To treat a cavity your dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then "fill" the area on the tooth where the decayed material was removed. Fillings are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth and teeth that have been worn down from general wear & tear.
Advantages of composites:
- The shade/colour of the composite fillings can be closely matched to the colour of existing teeth.
- Composite fillings actually chemically bond to tooth structure, providing further support.
- Sometimes less tooth structure needs to be removed compared with amalgam fillings when removing decay and preparing for the filling.
Disadvantages of composites:
- Composite fillings may wear out sooner than amalgam fillings
- Due to the process of using composite material, they can take up to 20 minutes longer than amalgam fillings to place.
- Composite fillings cost more than amalgam fillings.
Advantages of silver fillings:
- Silver fillings last at least 10 to 15 years and usually outlasts composite (tooth-coloured) fillings.
- They are stronger and harder wearing.
- They are less expensive than composite fillings
Disadvantages of silver fillings:
- Silver fillings don't match the colour of natural teeth.
- Healthy parts of the tooth must often be removed to make a space large enough to hold the amalgam filling.
- Amalgam fillings can create a greyish hue to the surrounding tooth structure.
- Although all teeth expand and contract in the presence of hot and cold liquids, which ultimately can cause the tooth to crack or fracture, amalgam material -- in comparison with other filling materials -- may experience a wider degree of expansion and contraction and lead to a higher incidence of cracks and fractures.
- A small percentage of people, approximately 1%, are allergic to the mercury present in amalgam restorations.