Amalgam Versus Composite Resin Fillings

Posted on: 16 December 2015

When the dentist discovers a cavity (a hole) in one of your teeth, you'll be told that you need a filling.  The most usual filling materials used in general dentistry today are traditional amalgam fillings or composite resin fillings.  You will usually be able to choose which material you'd like with advice from your dentist, but which is best?  Read on for more information.

Amalgam fillings

Dental amalgam fillings are made from a combination of mercury, tin, copper and silver.  The mercury component of amalgam fillings makes the material extremely strong, hard and durable.

Amalgam is an easier material for dentists to work with because it's very malleable, and it can therefore be used to fill even the largest cavities relatively easily.  Because amalgam is so strong, it's the best option for fillings in your back teeth where you do most of your chewing. 

Amalgam is usually your dentist's filling material of choice for cavities situated below the gum line or in parts of your mouth that are difficult to keep dry during the procedure.  Amalgam will still adhere securely to wet teeth, whereas resin won't, and this can sometimes mean that resin fillings are more easily dislodged soon after placement. 

Another big advantage of amalgam is that it is by far the cheapest filling medium that your dentist has in their armoury.

The main drawback of amalgam fillings is that they are very visible, appearing as silvery-grey areas in your teeth.  This can present a particular problem if you require multiple fillings in the teeth towards the front of your mouth.

Although mercury is known to be a toxic material, the quantities used in dental fillings are very small, and when used in combination with the other material present in amalgam fillings, the material is completely safe.

Resin composite fillings

Resin composite fillings are made from a compound of plastic and ceramic.  The resin effectively mimics the natural colour of your teeth, making it the best choice for fillings required in your front teeth where dental work is most visible.  However, it is worth noting that some dental insurance plans do not cover resin fillings placed in teeth that are not visible when you smile.  This is because resin fillings are not generally considered strong enough to withstand the grinding and chewing forces placed upon them when used in the back teeth and are therefore more likely to break.

In conclusion

The type of filling you opt for will largely depend on where it is to be placed, its size, cosmetic concerns and the cost of the treatment.  Have a chat with your dentist to help you decide which would be your best alternative.