Many dentists still place what are called silver fillings. These fillings were developed in the 1840s. They are actually a mixture of silver, mercury, and smaller amounts of other metals, and the correct technical name would be amalgam fillings. They have served the dental profession well for many years. But there is newer technology that we far prefer, for many reasons.
To properly place an amalgam filling, a dentist has to drill away all that healthy enamel because it is undermined and weak. White composite filling material, however, has the wonderful property of bonding to the tooth. Thus, in placing thecomposite filling, the Drs. are able to preserve much of that undermined enamel, and only have to restore the decayed part of the tooth. Weakened enamel can be left in place, because the filling bonds to it and strengthens it.
Other Advantages of White Restorations
- They contain no mercury. Many of our patients are uncomfortable with mercury-containing fillings being placed in their mouths.
- Teeth are left stronger and less likely to fracture.
- Since the filling bonds to the tooth, it seals out recurrent decay.
- The results are much more attractive. When you laugh or are having fun, you won’t show ugly dark metal fillings in the back of your mouth.
- Since the resin used in tooth-colored restorations contains fluoride this can help prevent decay. The resin wears like natural teeth and does not require placement at the gum line, which is healthier for your gums!
Amalgam is used in dentistry for a number of reasons. It is relatively easy to use and manipulate during placement, it remains soft for a short time so it can be packed to fill any irregular volume, and then forms a hard compound. Amalgam possesses greater longevity than other direct restorative materials, such as composite. On average, most amalgam restorations serve for 10 to 12 years, whereas resin-based composites serve for about half that time. However, with recent improvements in composite material science and a better understanding of the technique-sensitivity of placement, it should be noted that this difference is decreasing.
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.