Amalgams restorations have been around for over 150 years. They are very durable and hold up extremely well. They are more economical than other restorations and are relatively easily placed.
However, people are much more concerned about cosmetics recently and this has resulted in fewer amalgam fillings being placed in favor of the more esthetically pleasing tooth-colored fillings.
The safety of amalgam fillings has been challenged over a period of many years and especially recently. Amalgam fillings mostly contain silver metal, which is not considered to be a safety concern. However, they also contain small amounts of mercury that can be hazardous to people and the environment. Some people have said amalgam fillings are not safe because of this. Many years of research and testing have been done to determine the safety of amalgam fillings. Most recent studies have led the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, U.S. Public Health Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and many other trusted organizations to say dental amalgam is very safe to use for dental restorations for the vast majority of the population.
While there are still questions as to whether or not there are environmental issues with amalgam waste, it is still considered a very fine dental restorative material.
Composite fillings are made out of a porcelain-plastic material that is tooth colored. They are often called “white” fillings.
Composite fillings can be just as strong as amalgam (silver) fillings if they are kept small however may not be as strong in larger fillings. They are a little more expensive than amalgam (silver) fillings due to higher material cost and the increased time necessary to place.
Composites are most often used on the front teeth where appearance is important, but are being used more often on back teeth as people are becoming much more concerned about aesthetics. Since composite fillings are “bonded” into place, often they can be kept smaller than amalgam fillings that require mechanical retention.
A composite filling restoration can be completed in just one visit as with an amalgam filling. Composite fillings are completely set when you leave the office so you may chew on it right away.