What is the difference between an Amalgam Restoration and a Composite Restoration?
Most dental amalgam fillings are silver in color and are made from a mixture of mercury and an
alloy of silver, tin, and copper. Mercury makes up about 45-50 percent of the compound. Mercury
is used to bind the metals together and to provide a strong, hard durable filling. Mercury has
been found to be the only element that will bind these metals together in the best possible way
to manipulate the material into a tooth cavity.
According to the American Dental Association, backed by volumes of research, mercury in dental
amalgam is not poisonous. The combination of the mercury and other materials in dental amalgam it
changes its chemical nature. The chemical nature change makes the mercury essentially harmless.
The amount released in the mouth under the pressure of chewing and grinding is extremely small and
no cause for alarm. In fact, it is less than what patients are exposed to in food, air, and water
on a daily basis.
Composite resins, or white fillings, are more expensive. While aesthetically appealing, they require
a longer time to place and are not as durable as silver amalgam. Composite resins are tooth-colored,
plastic materials (made of glass and resin) that are used both as fillings and to repair defects in
the teeth. Because they are tooth-colored, it is difficult to distinguish them from natural teeth.
Composites are often used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important. They can be
used on the back teeth as well depending on the location and extent of the tooth decay. In teeth
where chewing loads are high, composite fillings are less resistant to wear than silver amalgams.