For many years, silver amalgam was the only option available to dentists for fillings. This is no longer the case, as advances in dental technology have brought options such as tooth-colored composite and porcelain inlays into a more affordable range. Because of this, we are often asked by patients with amalgam fillings whether they should replace their fillings with other materials. Today, our Hillsboro dental office is taking a look at some of the pros and cons of both of the most popular filling materials: amalgam and composite.
Are Amalgam Fillings Dangerous?
Amalgam fillings contain elemental mercury. While it is true that high amounts of mercury can be harmful, even fatal, to humans, the amount of mercury used in fillings has been deemed completely safe by the American Dental Association. Even if you have several amalgam fillings in your mouth, there is no cause for concern due to the mercury in fillings.
A small percentage of patients may have a sensitivity or allergy to mercury. This is the only circumstance in which Hillsboro dentist Dr. Smith would recommend replacement of your amalgam fillings solely due to their mercury content. Removing amalgam fillings has risks of its own, such as damaging the remaining tooth and releasing additional mercury vapor into your system during the removal process.
Are Composite Fillings Better Than Amalgam Fillings?
Composite fillings consist of a tooth-colored resin and other materials, which can be placed into the tooth cavity in a liquid form and then cured to form a solid and lasting bond with your tooth. These fillings are preferred by many dentists and patients, but they're not perfect.
Composite fillings will generally wear out faster than amalgam fillings, requiring more frequent replacement. They are not as strong and can crack or chip easier if you chew hard foods or non-food items. Composite fillings are also frequently more expensive than amalgam, and your insurance may not cover the difference in cost, depending on your policy.
They do offer some benefits over amalgam fillings, however. Because they bond with the tooth while curing, Dr. Smith is able to leave more of your natural tooth in place. Amalgam fillings require “anchor” points within the cavity structure, which means more healthy tooth is removed. Composite fillings also offer an aesthetic advantage, as they can be matched to your natural tooth color and give you a virtually invisible restoration.
Composite fillings are also less susceptible to expansion and contraction due to temperature changes. Amalgam fillings can sometimes crack the tooth due to repeated expansion and contraction. Composite fillings are also less prone to leakage. A leaking filling means there is a small gap between the filling and your tooth, allowing debris and saliva to move into this space and often leading to decay.
Making the Right Choice for Your Dental Fillings
There is no right answer to the question "amalgam or composite?" that fits every situation. Our Hillsboro, OR dental office offers both amalgam and composite fillings to our patients. If you have questions about which option is right for you, your teeth, and your financial situation, call today and schedule a consultation. We will happily review your treatment options with you and help you make the right decision.