Cavities. They happen, and there’s often no need to stress about them. Treating a cavity is part of what we call restorative dentistry. When you get a cavity, you have the option to choose between a silver amalgam and a composite filling. That being said, there are reasons when you may and/or should choose one option over the other. In both cases, you can expect that your dentist will remove the tooth decay and place the filling. There are, however, quite a few differences between your filling options and here is more information about those differences so that you can remain informed and actively understand what is happening in your mouth.
Amalgam fillings are typically made from silver, tin, copper and mercury whereas composite fillings are made from a composite resin material. While both options protect the teeth after a cavity, they exhibit distinct differences. The major differences between the types of fillings include: appearance, longevity, stability, preparation and procedure.
The difference in appearance is quite noticeable. As the name suggests, silver amalgam fillings consist of various metals and therefore display a silver appearance, which makes them more apparent when speaking and smiling. Composite resin fillings, on the other hand, are tooth-colored. Dentists are able to match the color of the patient’s natural teeth to the color of the composite resin.
Because silver amalgam fillings are made with metals, they are extremely durable and typically last for 10-15 years. Composite resin, by nature, is not as strong as metal so the fillings have a shorter life span. However, with both types, care and location of the filling also impact longevity.
As we’ve already established, silver amalgam fillings typically last longer than composite resin fillings do. However, one important factor to note is that silver fillings expand and contract when they are exposed to hot and cold temperatures. Because of this expansion, teeth do have the potential to crack. Moreover, when the filling contracts, it’s important to be aware of the fact that food can get underneath the material and cause additional decay. In contrast, composite resin fillings do not change in size.
Before placing a filling, a dentist will typically use a dental drill to remove the underlying decay. Additionally, a dentist also has to remove some of the healthy tooth structure in order to create room to place the filling; this amount depends on which filling material is selected. Because silver fillings do not bond to the tooth, dentists must remove a large amount of the healthy tooth structure to place the fillings. Composite fillings, however, do bond to the tooth so a smaller portion of the tooth’s structure is typically removed, which allows the tooth to maintain its natural strength.
As noted above, in order to place a silver amalgam filling, a dentist must first remove the decay. Despite this, the process of placing a composite filling is actually more involved. The composite resin material must be placed in layers by way of a in order to harden the material. This process takes longer than placing silver amalgam fillings.
Now that you’ve educated yourself on the differences between the two types of fillings, you can be confident in the decision that you make with your dentist. As always, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact us!