The most common type of dental treatment is a filling, or as a dentist calls it, a “restoration” of a tooth.
Fillings are used most often to fill cavities or correct problems with a tooth to restore it to its healthy shape and performance. Two types of fillings are commonly used: amalgam and composite fillings. Let’s look at the difference between amalgam vs. composite fillings and some of their uses and benefits.
One of the standards in restorative dentistry is the amalgam filling. The modern amalgam is composed of liquid (elemental) mercury mixed with a powder of silver, tin and copper. The dentist numbs the tooth and uses a high-speed drill or laser to clean out the cavity. This removes any decayed material and creates a space where the tooth can be filled.
The dentist next mixes the amalgam, which is shipped and stored in two separate compartments (mercury and powder). Once mixed, he or she applies this thick paste to the space and presses it firmly into place. It quickly hardens into a solid filling. After it hardens, your dentist can smooth or grind away any excess filling to create a normal bite.
Amalgam fillings are often called “silver” fillings, and the benefits of an amalgam filling are its lower cost and durability. They may be the best choice for large fillings or for those who grind their teeth.
Some people may be concerned about the word “mercury” when learning about an amalgam filling. The elemental mercury (liquid) is not toxic itself, and if swallowed, will pass through the boxy without entering the bloodstream. It is used because it is very good at binding together the tiny metallic particles. Safety issues revolve around mercury vapor, which is not used. The Food and Drug Administration, in response to possible concerns, found “no clinical evidence of mercury poisoning in any patients” having amalgam fillings in their study years between 1988 and 2008. It does not see a need for replacing amalgam fillings.
Composite filling material is composed of a mixture of synthetic resins that offers good bonding strength to teeth. After preparing the tooth as with an amalgam filing, the dentist commonly roughs up, or etches, the area where the filling is to be applied, using an acidic gel for several seconds. He or she then rinses away the gel to expose the prepared surface. This enables the composite filling to bond, or grip, well with the tooth.
After a thin layer of the composite material is inserted, it is “cured” using a special curing lamp. The material will not harden on its own. The composite filling is built up layer by layer using this technique until the restoration is complete. The dentist then polishes the filling to restore a natural shape and bite. Composite fillings are often known as “white” fillings and can be more expensive than amalgam fillings, however, many patients like the more natural color of a composite filling that can be closely matched to your natural tooth color. They are also less durable than amalgam fillings, but may be a desirable option depending upon the location and size of the filling. Composite is more ideal for smaller fillings.
At Advanced Family Dentistry, We Care About Your Dental Health
When you need great dental care for your entire family, visit Advanced Family Dentistry in Reston, Virginia. We are glad to educate you on good oral health care and offer you options, like amalgam vs. composite fillings. We offer a full range of dental services including oral surgery and dental implants.
Contact us today to set your appointment.
Dr. Sonny Kim is a Diplomat of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI), the highest education level for general dentists in this field.
Advanced Family Dentistry
Dr. Sonny Kim, DMD
11876 Sunrise Valley Dr, Suite 101
Reston, VA 20191