What type of filling should I get?
There are two direct filling materials used to repair broken and decayed teeth. The two choices are the silver, metal ones (amalgam) and the tooth colored one (composite). We place both types in our office.
Metal (amalgam) is stronger and lasts longer, they are self sealing with the tooth thus helping to prevent further leakage or damage to the tooth and they are less expensive than the tooth colored fillings.
Tooth colored (composite) match the color of the natural tooth and can reduce the amount of tooth removal needed to place the filling, thus preserving natural tooth structure. This type of filling may have to be replaced more often than metal fillings because they are less durable than metal.
In general,I prefer to place metal on surfaces of posterior (back) teeth where the filling will cover two or more surfaces of the tooth. I think composite or tooth colored fillings on back teeth is fine when limited to one surface of tooth. In this situation they are just as easy to place and monitor as the metal fillings. If you see breakage or if further decay occurs, it is much easier to diagnose on the x-ray when the filling is metal.
I am always glad to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both types before we decide which is the best option for you.
I debated long and hard about whether or not I should include this section. I decided to include it for the sole purpose of educating my patients on the subject of:
“Should I replace my metal fillings with fillings that do not contain mercury?”
The mercury in a metal filling is placed there as a flux which helps the metal particles bind together as the dentist packs the filling into the tooth with the excess mercury being suctioned out of the mouth. Over time small amounts of mercury could possibly enter your body through wear or breakdown of the filling material, however, in scientifically small amounts than the average persons exposure from environmental sources. It’s the classic “risk vs reward” question. Metal fillings are much more durable than tooth colored fillings, but tooth colored fillings can conserve natural tooth structure.
It is ultimately a decision I encourage each patient to make for themselves, combined with their dentist input plus any research you can do on your on. To get started here are two links that go into depth on the subject:
From The American Dental Association:
From the US Food an Drug:
I look forward to discussing this lively subject with you anytime.