One of the most common treatments for a tooth cavity is dental filling in which dentists remove the decayed portion of the teeth and fill the empty space. The dentists either use amalgam or composite materials to fill the empty spaces.
At the time of dental filling, selecting one between these two filling materials is a major point of discussion. Traditionally, there was no such confusion because dentists had only one option of amalgam fillings. But the recent advancements in dental materials has given us the option of composite material. The primary reason for this development was the demand for a more aesthetic and durable material (later in the post, you will get to know how).
Both amalgam and composite dental fillings have several advantages and disadvantages, due to which people get confused and are unable to select the right option for them.
To clear out the confusion and make an informed decision, we have mentioned differences (including advantages and disadvantages) between amalgam and composite dental fillings.
Difference based on the preparation
Also known as silver fillings or mercury fillings, amalgam is composed of alloy particles of various metals. The amalgam manufacturers use metals such as silver, tin and copper, mixing them together and milling them to a fine powder. When the dentist mixes this powder with mercury, it gives us a pliable material which sets to harden inside the cavity. More than half of the amalgam material comprises mercury, as it binds the other metals together. The use of mercury in dental fillings has been researched extensively and the verdict is that they are extremely safe.
Also known as white fillings or tooth coloured fillings, composite fillings are prepared using ceramic and plastic filler compounds. The manufacturer provides the composite material in an unset form; when exposed to a certain wavelength of light, the material hardens. With the use of resin composites, the dentist is able to recreate the natural shape and contour of the tooth. The right blend of the filler particles provides us with a range of shades, the use of which makes the filling practically invisible on the tooth surface.
Difference based on durability and life-expectancy
Due to the use of sturdy metals, amalgam fillings are durable and do not get affected by any external pressure. On average, the amalgam filling normally lasts for 10 to 15 years and you do not have to worry about repeated restoration.
As compared to amalgam fillings, composite filling normally lasts for 5 to 7 years which means you need frequent restoration. It’s just an average count; rest depends on the different factors like your diet, oral hygiene, and daily habits.
Difference based on side-effects
The various metals used in amalgam fillings are not suitable for all. People develop mild allergies and sensitivities to amalgam which becomes a severe problem, requiring immediate removal of the filling.
On the other hand, composite fillings are completely safe and are even prescribed for children below 18 years of age.
Difference based on support to cavities
Both the materials work very well with the minor cavities but the problem arises when the cavity is large. Amalgam dental fillings do not give proper support to large cavities as it does not have any bonding property to the tooth; instead, it is held by compression and mechanical interlock. Due to this, the tooth suffers from fractures over time.
Composite fillings have a strong bonding property. They adhere to the tooth surface and are held by chemical bonding.
Other than these, the one major difference between both the materials is the cost. Amalgam generally costs less than composite materials. It’s because amalgam dental fillings take less time for preparation and treatment.
Lastly, the selection of the right dental filling material depends on the size and location of the cavity, your dental history, cosmetic concerns, and cost.