Silver fillings aren’t invisible. Most of us would prefer to have white fillings that match the color of our teeth. So why aren’t white fillings used exclusively in the dentist’s office? Should you request white fillings for your child?
Here are 10 quick facts about dental amalgam (silver) and composite (white) to help with the answer.
5 Facts about Dental Amalgam
Make-up. Amalgam is made by a combination of metals, bound together by mercury. The potential for mercury exposure through the presence of amalgam is a topic of debate. However, numerous public health agencies, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American Cancer Society to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, agree that the amount of mercury absorbed by the body from amalgams is too small to cause a health hazard.
Strength. Amalgam is strong and resistant, so it is often used in the back of the mouth where we do the most heavy-duty chewing.
Track record. Amalgam has been proven to last for decades and has been in use for over a century.
Cost. Amalgam is less costly to apply than composite fillings.
Pliability and maintenance. Because of its pliability, it is easy for dentists to work with amalgam. It hardens to a durable filling that is low maintenance for the patient.
5 Facts about Composites
Make-up: Composites are made up of resin and ceramic compounds that are strong, durable, and resist breaking.
Improved performance: In the past decade, composites have improved significantly in quality, some lasting for up to 20 years.
Application: Composites are not as simple for dentists to apply as amalgam. It needs a completely dry environment for placement, which can get trickier in the back of the mouth.
Tooth sensitivity: Composites have been known to shrink when hardened, which can potentially lead to temperature sensitivity or further decay. To prevent this, make sure a qualified dentist applies your fillings.
Cost: Composite restorations are sometimes considered cosmetic fillings and are not always covered by health insurance policies. It also costs more than amalgam fillings.
The use of amalgam has declined significantly over the years, but this is largely due to improved dental hygiene at home and the use of sealants in kids. Increased use of white fillings is also a reason – as white fillings have grown into a reliable alternative to the silver-colored ones we grew up with.