What is a filling?
When there is a cavity (decay, or caries) on a tooth, the decayed part of the tooth needs to be removed. If the decay is not removed from the tooth, it will grow bigger and turn into bigger problems ending in root canal therapy or possible loss of that tooth. Once the decay is removed, a filling is placed. Fillings have limitations and in order to be successful a relatively strong tooth is needed to support the filling.
What is the difference between amalgam (silver) and composite (tooth-colored) fillings?
The most common choices for filling most cavities are between silver amalgams (a mixture of silver-tin alloy, copper and mercury that sets up hard and silver colored) and composite resin (a mixture of acrylic plastics, quartz fillers and colorants). There are several differences besides the obviously more esthetic results of composites over amalgams. A big difference, which insurance companies seem to consider the most important, is longevity. Amalgams last up to 20% longer than similar composite restorations. Since amalgam fillings have been around much longer than composites, they have more research and at this point are proved to last longer. These factors make silver fillings more economical than the more natural looking composites, so that is why insurance companies rarely approve of a composite filling in the back teeth. (They will substitute payment for the cheaper amalgam when they receive a claim for posterior composites -- just look at any Explanation of Benefit forms for composite filling you may have received.) Besides being virtually invisible, composites have a property of bonding to the tooth structure. This bonding can protect and increase the overall strength of the tooth being restored. Composite resin fillings have come a long way, the newer generation composites are very strong and at the same time have very aesthetic results. They are more expensive and are technique sensitive. We pride ourselves in doing beautiful, strong and functional composite, resins (tooth- colored) fillings. However certain teeth or areas may be better off with amalgam filling (silver). The choice of which restorative material to use in your mouth depends on balancing the factors of appearance, longevity, strength of the tooth involved and cost. A consultation with one of our Dentists will help you decide which type of filling will be better for you. Sometimes the dentist may recommend changing an old filling that may be chipped, fractured or corroded. Some fillings that are old may still be doing well and don’t need to be changed.