Dental Filling Types
Learn about composite and silver dental fillings, including the benefits and side effects associated with each material, before you decide to have your smile restored with this cosmetic dentistry treatment.
Composite Dental Fillings
Composite fillings, also known as white or tooth-colored fillings, have replaced the need for silver amalgam material when filling in areas of teeth that have been affected by tooth decay and cavities. The majority of Americans are now choosing to have old silver fillings replaced and new cavities filled with composite solutions despite the fact that tooth colored fillings are more expensive than silver fillings.
Composite Fillings Benefits
Composite fillings offer a number of benefits over silver amalgam fillings, which contain mercury and are considered by many to be toxic.
- Composite materials can restore and strengthen the teeth; silver fillings actually weaken the tooth because the metal can expand and contract based on temperature changes, making the tooth more prone to breakage.
- Dentists do not have to remove as much of your natural tooth structure when prepping it for the composite fillings, whereas the hole required for silver fillings is significantly larger.
- White fillings improve the health of teeth without marring their appearance with dark fillings.
- There is less post-treatment pain and sensitivity associated with use of composite materials versus silver fillings.
Composite Fillings Risks and Side Effects
There are no known health risks associated with use of composite fillings. However, some patients do experience mild discomfort in the days following the procedure. Patients can expect to feel some pain and sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks, especially in the first week or two after treatment.
In the past, use of metal fillings to treat cavities was common in the United States. Since composite, or tooth-colored fillings, were developed and made available to consumers in the 1990s, dentists and patients have come to prefer composite filler materials over silver amalgam fillers for a range of reasons. However, some patients find that silver fillings are sufficient and dentists do still use this material to treat teeth damaged by decay.
Metal Fillings Benefits
One of the main reasons patients prefer silver amalgam fillings to composite solutions is because of the cost. Silver fillings generally cost $110 to $200 per filling, while composite fillings generally cost $135 to $240 per filling. The cost varies based on the extent of damage to the tooth. In addition, dental health insurance policies generally cover a significant portion of the cost of these procedures. Other benefits of amalgam fillings include:
- The procedure is shorter than the composite treatment.
- The silver filling treatment requires less skill and technology than the composite technique.
- Silver fillings have been used for decades, and many patients are more comfortable with the materials long-term safety record.
Metal Fillings Risks and Side Effects
Although silver fillings are effective in treating cavities, they are associated with some health risks and side effects.
- Although metal fillings have been shown to be safe in patients, many believe that use of mercury in the amalgam material may lead to future health problems.
- The metal material can expand and contract over time, and could potentially cause damage to the structure of the tooth.
- The dentist must remove more of the tooth structure than is required when composite material is used to fill in the cavity.
- Teeth may be more sensitive to hot and cold foods in the weeks following treatment.
Contact a Dentist
If you suspect you have a cavity or you would like to have all of your silver amalgam fillings replaced with tooth-colored fillings, contact a local cosmetic dentist. A dentist can examine your teeth and gums to diagnose any issues you may have, and recommend the appropriate course of treatment.