When given a choice, most people prefer to have cavities in their teeth filled with a composite filling material rather than an amalgam filling material. There is one main reason for this preference; however, there are a couple reasons to re-think this decision.
What’s the Difference?
Composite filling material is resin. Some people refer to this type of filling material as “plastic,” but it isn’t really plastic.
Amalgam filling material is a combination of metals. The amalgam might contain copper, mercury, silver and tin. It can contain all of these metals or only two or three of them in various amounts. Amalgam almost always contains silver as one of the ingredients.
Why People Prefer Composite
The number one reason people choose composite over amalgam is aesthetics. You see, composite fillings are white. They blend in nicely with your natural enamel so, when you open your mouth to yawn or laugh, the people around you only see white.
Amalgam filling material is usually dark silver, no matter what type of metal it contains. So, when you open your mouth, the people around you see the dark silver in your teeth.
What Makes Amalgam Better than Composite?
Amalgam filling material is much more durable. In fact, an amalgam filling usually lasts between 10 and 20 years.
Health Canada recommends that you “use water, toothpaste or rinses containing fluoride” to make teeth stronger and less likely to develop cavities.
Composite fillings are much less durable. If your dentist fills a cavity located on the chewing surface of your tooth with composite material, it will not withstand the harsh punishment of chewing for very long. Also, the decay from the cavity could come back, even though your dentist will grind all of that away before filling the tooth.
Do They Cost the Same?
Amalgam material and composite material do not cost the same. This is another reason that amalgam material is usually preferable — it is cheaper than composite. You get a longer-lasting filling for less money.
When is Composite the Better Choice?
Composite filling material is often recommended for cavities on the front of your teeth. It gives you a more attractive smile and usually holds up pretty well. Since it is on the front of your teeth, it isn’t subjected to the hard wear and tear that the chewing surfaces of your teeth must endure.
Are Both Materials Safe?
According to the Canadian Dental Association, “Studies have shown that amalgam fillings do not cause illness. They have been used on people for more than 150 years.”
Yes, both amalgam and composite filling materials are quite safe. Even though a very tiny amount of mercury is released into your mouth from amalgam filling materials that contain it, there isn’t enough to cause most people any harm at all. If you are pregnant, however, it is best to wait to get teeth filled after you have the baby.