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Amalgam Versus Composite Fillings
If you have cavities, you need to choose between silver amalgam and composite fillings. In both cases, your dentist will remove the tooth decay and place the filling. However, the two choices have quite a few differences. Learn more about your filling choices, so you can make a decision.
Compare amalgam and composite fillings
Amalgam fillings are made from silver, tin, copper and mercury. Composite fillings are made from a composite resin material. Both options protect the teeth after a cavity. However, the two have distinct differences.
The first difference is the most noticeable. Composite resin fillings are tooth-colored. Dentists match the color of the patient’s natural teeth to the color of the composite resin. While amalgam fillings consist of various metals, the fillings have a silver appearance. Silver fillings stand out when people talk and smile.
The metals used to make silver amalgam fillings make the fillings extremely durable. Silver fillings typically last for 10-15 years. Composite resin is not as strong as metal, and the fillings usually last for five years. In both cases, the fillings can last for longer or shorter durations, depending on how patients care for them. Also, the location of the filling impacts how long it lasts. For example, composite resin fillings can last 10 or more years when on the front teeth.
Silver fillings typically last longer than composite resin fillings do. However, silver fillings expand and contract when exposed to hot and cold temperatures. Expansion can cause the teeth to crack. When the filling contracts, food can get underneath the material and cause additional decay. Composite resin fillings do not change in size.
Dentists use dental drills to remove decay before placing the fillings. Dentists must also remove some of the healthy tooth structure to make room for the filling, but the amount depends on the filling material selected. Silver fillings do not bond to the tooth, so dentists must remove a large amount of the healthy tooth structure to place the fillings. Composite fillings bond to the tooth, so dentists do not need to remove nearly as much of the tooth’s structure. This allows the tooth to maintain its natural strength.
Dentists remove the decay and place silver amalgam fillings. However, the process for placing composite resin fillings is more involved. Dentists must place the composite resin material in layers, using an ultraviolet light or laser to harden each layer. This process takes longer than placing silver amalgam fillings.
Choosing a filling material
Before you choose a filling material, consider the differences between the two. Composite fillings match the existing teeth, while silver fillings stand out. Silver fillings tend to last longer, but the material can expand and contract. You will keep more of your natural tooth if you get a composite resin filling, but the process will take longer. If you are unsure which option is the right choice for you, talk to your dentist.
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