Silver Amalgam vs Composite Resin Filling Materials
When a dentist finds a cavity or a crack in your tooth, one of the first things they do is to try and repair it. In most cases, this involves the use of a filling that seals the opening and hardens to protect the tooth’s surface from incurring any more damage. Fillings are normally made of two types of materials, silver amalgam, and composite resin. Each type offers both benefits and drawbacks. They can be used effectively in a variety of situations and are able to adequately protect your teeth from further damage.
Silver amalgam is a very soft, malleable, metal compound that is made up of copper, tin, silver, and mercury. Mercury accounts for almost 50% of the mixture, giving the final material, its silvery-grey appearance. Once dental amalgam has been mixed, the dentist gently packs into the hole that has been drilled into the tooth. The surface of the amalgam is formed to match the edge of the tooth above it. Once your bite pattern has been established, the amalgam is allowed to cure, or harden. Although the FDA has approved silver amalgam and it has been declared safe for use, individuals who have a sensitivity to mercury may experience certain side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, muscle weakness, and depression.
Composite resin has been used since the 1960’s as an alternative silver amalgam for filling cavities and fissures that form in the teeth. Resin compounds and finely ground glass and porcelain particles are mixed together to create an opaque material that is used much like amalgam. While the mixture is still malleable, it is gently packed into the tooth and gently shaped to fit your bite pattern. Composite resin will harden much faster than amalgam, depending on its formulation. Once it is in place and properly shaped, the dentist will allow it to cure or harden. A special light is used to speed up the process.
When comparing the cost of silver amalgam fillings to their composite counterparts, composite resin costs slightly more. Part of the reason for this is the technology used to create the resin and the procedure used to cure it once it’s in place. One of the unique benefits of composite resin is that when it is being mixed, a tint can be added so that it exactly matches the color of the tooth it is being used to fill, making it almost invisible. Silver amalgam fillings are extremely simple to formulate and use. Although they are darker in color, they perform just as well as composite fillings for an affordable price.
Both materials are incredibly long-lasting. Composite resin fillings can last upwards of 10 years, and with proper dental care, many years longer. Silver amalgam fillings are also extremely durable. For most, the average lifespan ranges between 10 and 15 years, but we have seen cases in which they have lasted up to 20 years. To get these results, it’s important to be seen by your dentist every year, report any problems as soon as they occur, and take proper care of your teeth. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once. You can also protect your teeth and reduce the growth of bacteria by using a mouthwash approved by the American Dental Association.
One of the biggest drawbacks of silver amalgam fillings is their dark appearance. The amalgam mixture has also been known to stain teeth if it remains in place for several years. Composite resin, on the other hand, can be clear or lightly tinted to give it an opaque appearance. Dentists can add just the right amount of color to the mixture so that the filling exactly matches the tooth being filled. This means that it can be placed on the surfaces of the teeth that are highly visible without being detected or causing the filling to stand out.
We offer our patients the option of which type of material they would like to have us use during their procedure. If cost is a factor, the silver amalgam fillings are more affordable and still offer the same, long-lasting, and durable wear. If visual appearance is important, we can accommodate your choice by using the composite resin and mixing it to suit your particular needs. We will discuss your options with you and make sure all of your questions are answered so that you can make a fully informed decision.
Call Dr. Briglia’s office today at 610-692-4440. We can replace existing fillings or make any repairs that are needed after your annual checkup. We will provide you with the information on both types of materials and offer our recommendations. We will make sure you get the type of material you want and that your smile looks its very best when the procedure is finished.