A composite filling is a tooth colored quartz-like material. After tooth decay is removed and cleaned, this tooth colored material is layered into the tooth. Each layer is hardened or cured with highly intense visible light, and the final surface is shaped and polished to match the tooth. The final restoration is virtually invisible.
The advantage to Composite fillings are not only are they more attractive because they look more natural, they also require minimal tooth preparation. In other words, less healthy tooth structure is removed to restore the tooth. Also, a sealant can be placed over the remaining exposed grooves of the tooth to minimize the risk of decay on another area of the tooth.
The disadvantage to Composite fillings are they can be subject to wear and tear from tooth grinding and from biting into or chewing on hard objects because they tend to not be as durable as Amalgam fillings (sliver fillings).
Alternatives to fillings in cases of extensive decay or if the baby tooth required a pulpotomy are crowns. If decay is not treated, it will most likely increase in size and become a larger problem.
Dental amalgam is made from a combination of metals that include mercury, silver, tin, and copper. Sometimes described as "silver-colored" fillings, dental amalgam has been used by dentists for more than 100 years because it lasts a long time and is less expensive than other cavity-filling materials, such as Composite fillings (tooth colored).
Because of their durability, these silver-colored fillings are often the best choice for large cavities or those that occur in the back teeth where a lot of force is needed to chew. Amalgam hardens quickly so it is useful in areas that are difficult to keep dry during placement, such as below the gum line. Because it takes less time to place than tooth-colored fillings, amalgam is also an effective material for children and special needs people who may have a difficult time staying still during treatment.
One disadvantage of amalgam is that these types of fillings are not natural looking, especially when the filling is near the front of the mouth, where it may show when you laugh or speak. Also, to prepare the tooth, the dentist may need to remove more tooth structure to place an amalgam filling than for other types of fillings.
Although dental amalgam is a safe, commonly used dental material, you may wonder about its mercury content. It's important to know that when combined with the other metals, it forms a safe, stable material. Be assured that credible scientific studies affirm the safety of dental amalgam. Study after study shows amalgam is safe and effective for filling cavities. The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material. The Alzheimer's Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Autism Society of America and National Multiple Sclerosis Society-all science-based organizations like the ADA-also say that amalgam poses no health risk.
The Mayo Clinic recently stated that dental amalgam is a safe and durable choice for dental fillings. They also note that "there are several kinds of mercury. The mercury [methylmercury] found in water that can build up in fish and lead to health problems if you ingest too much is not the same type of mercury used in amalgam.
Ultimately, the best dental filling is no dental filling. Prevention is the best medicine.
You can dramatically decrease your risk of cavities and other dental diseases simply by brushing your teeth twice per day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, eating a balanced diet, and visiting the dentist regularly.