Patients who need to have a cavity filled usually are faced with a choice between tooth-colored composite fillings or amalgam (metal) restorations. The different materials have distinct qualities, so it’s important for patients to decide which factors are most important in their treatment decision. For example, although composite materials have improved dramatically over the years, amalgam fillings do typically last longer than composite ones. Therefore, your dentist may recommend amalgam in certain cases if the area of the cavity will be exposed to repeated stresses, potentially causing a composite filling to degrade prematurely.
However, amalgam fillings have drawbacks, too. In addition to their dark color that detracts from the smile, amalgam fillings are more likely to crack in response to significant temperature changes. Furthermore, certain metals in the amalgam can actually stain the patient’s tooth over time. Amalgam also is less effective at bonding with the enamel, so a larger amount of healthy tooth material must be removed to accommodate an amalgam filling.
In contrast, composite fillings do not negatively affect the smile’s appearance, and they can be used in smaller cavities in order to preserve as much healthy enamel as possible. Patients who get amalgam fillings must be quite diligent about oral hygiene practices to limit the presence of bacteria around the edges of the filling, where new cavities have a tendency to develop.
Because the two types of fillings have these different pros and cons, you should discuss your priorities with your dentist in order to determine which approach best meets your needs. Composite fillings can be suitable in many cases, so you shouldn’t assume that this option isn’t feasible in your case. However, amalgam fillings may be preferable in certain instances.
While composite materials may not last quite as long as amalgam ones, they are still fairly durable. Discuss all of your restoration options with our dentist to determine which considerations are most important for your particular case. Call our office today!