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Composite (Tooth Colored) vs. Amalgam (Silver) Fillings

by Linda McGuire RDH



When a cavity needs to be filled, there are certain options as to what your dentist will choose to use to fill that cavity.  There are basically 2 options.  Resin composite (tooth colored) bonded filling material, or amalgam (silver colored) filling material.  Most dentists have started using the resin composite and are no longer using amalgam for several reasons.

1. The resin material better bonds to the tooth holding it together, making it less likely to crack or for the filling to break.  Amalgam is like putting cement in a bucket, letting it dry, then turning it upside down causing the cement to fall out.  Amalgam does not bond to the teeth as well as resin filling material.  As you can see in the photo below, the amalgam can pull away from the tooth causing much more extensive decay to develop below the filling.  This can lead to more expensive treatment such as a root canal if not fixed.

leaking amalgam

2. Amalgam contains mercury, which is not safe for our environment.  Some studies have shown that the mercury is not safe for you either.  However, once the filling is in the tooth, it is not likely to leak the mercury and harm you.

3.  Amalgam is much less aesthetic than the composite resin due to fact that resin can be made to match your tooth, and amalgam is very obvious in the teeth.  It causes a gray tint to the teeth instead of the pearly white look they should have.  If you have amalgam fillings in your teeth that are closer to the front of your mouth, they can be visible when you smile.


4. Amalgam, over time, tends to break down and crack the teeth.  Amalgam is a metal, so when it gets cold or hot, it tends to expand and contract.  When something is inside the tooth and constantly expanding and contracting, we end up seeing cracks in the teeth like in the photos below.  This can lead to more expensive treatment such as a crown or root canal. amalgam crack amalgam crack 2

5. When doing Amalgam fillings, much more of the tooth structure has to be cut away in order to allow for the material to hold in the tooth.  Your dentist will have to make undercuts in order to allow for the filling to hold in place.  This is much more invasive than resin fillings.  Resin is a bonded filling that will hold itself in place, allowing for a much smaller portion of the tooth to be removed when putting in the filling.  As you can see in the illustration below, much of the tooth structure must be cut away in order to allow for the amalgam to hold in the tooth.  Your dentist must cut the decay out and then make further cuts to allow for ridges in the teeth to hold the amalgam in place.

tooth structure

In summary, white bonded fillings are less invasive, better looking, and do not contain harmful mercury.

If you have a mouth full of amalgam fillings and would like to have them replaced with tooth colored resin composite fillings, please give us a call today!

white fillings

Would you rather your teeth look like the before or the after photo?

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