Dental patients in need of a filling face the choice between an amalgam metallic alloy or composite resin filling. These filling classes are often referred to as “silver” and “white” because of the distinctive color variation.
There is more difference than color however, as with most things in life there are pros and cons that need to be considered. For instance an amalgam filling will often cost less than a composite variant, but also has the chance of staining teeth over long periods of time. And while composite fillings match the color of most teeth almost perfectly, they require more maintenance at home and last roughly half as long in comparison to amalgam.
These fillings are comprised of a mixture of copper, silver, tin and mercury, have been used for more than one hundred years and are inexpensive and easy to install. Amalgam fillings are completely safe according to the FDA despite their use of mercury. They can be applied nearly everywhere and when treated properly (routine brushing) fillings will last roughly twenty years; although discoloration can occur over time and darken or stain teeth.
A composite filling is often used when a client is concerned with the look of the affected tooth. The advantages are more than just cosmetic, composite fillings can be used in smaller areas (whereas an amalgam filling has a minimum size requirement) and these fillings will not stain teeth over time. Composite fillings however, will only last around ten years if maintained properly (regular brushing, flossing, and minimal grinding of teeth) due to the fact that the material is much softer than amalgam. Additionally, administering a composite filling requires a completely dry environment and can be difficult to install in some patients with above average saliva output or sensitive gums that may bleed.
If you are in the market for new fillings, speak with your dentist to see what option will fit your needs best.