The concept of “filling” a tooth is to replace and restore damaged tooth structure with another material. Typically, there are two types of filling materials to choose from. Most fillings will either be composed of an amalgam material (metal fillings made up of a silver-tin alloy, copper and mercury) or composite resin (tooth-colored fillings made up of acrylic plastics, quartz fillers and colorants).
Amalgams have been used in dentistry for a long time as they are extremely durable and less expensive than other filling materials. The silver-colored fillings will typically last several years and can be especially useful for filling larger cavities in back molars where we do most of our chewing. There are a few reasons why patients may not want to have amalgam fillings. The dark-metal color can be unsightly. And because the material cannot actually bond to your tooth, there is often a need to remove excess healthy tooth structure to make the filling wider at the bottom and narrow at the top so it will be held in place and not fall out. In addition there is always the ongoing debate about the safety of using mercury as a bonding agent inside amalgam fillings.
White composite resin is often the preferred choice of filling material especially when used on front teeth because it can be matched to the shade of your existing tooth structure to minimize visual detection. Another advantage is that minimal tooth structure needs to be removed in order for the material to create a strong bond. Composite fillings have not proven to last as long as amalgams and they can tend to be a bit more expensive, but technology has improved their durability.
If you’re worried you may have a cavity that needs to be filled or have had an existing filling that has come loose, please contact our office today at (616) 392-3717 for an evaluation. Early detection of a cavity is key to preventing further, more complex dental treatment.