Amalgam vs. Composite vs. Glass Ionomer Fillings
Fillings are the most common way people think dentists "fix teeth". Fillings (or restorations) are the use of dental materials to restore a tooth or teeth to a functional unit in the mouth.
SCENARIO: You go to the dentist for your regular check-up and cleaning. A few x-rays are taken. After completing the dental exam the dentist sits you up in the chair takes off the gloves and mask and says, "So you have a tooth that needs a filling."
You're shown one of the x-rays that was taken and a dark shadowy area (circled in red) of your tooth is visible to you. "This is decay." Your dentist says. "What needs to be done before this gets worse is to remove the damaged portion of the tooth and patch it with a filling material."
You (hopefully) agree to get the filling as soon as you can and, depending on the office, your tooth is filled with either amalgam, composite, or glass ionomer.
So what the heck are these materials and whats the difference between them??
Amalgam (a.k.a., silver fillings)
- PROS: Provides strong and durable fillings.
- CONS: Not very aesthetic. (Silver doesn't look good on your front teeth) and fear of mercury poisoning and allergic reactions.
- PROS: Tooth-colored, therefore can be used on anterior (front) teeth, can withstand the environment of the mouth & easily shape-able.
- CONS: Not as strong as amalgam fillings
- PROS: Also tooth-colored, excellent bio-compatibility with the mouth environment and releases fluoride which inhibits decay and discourages recurrent caries.
- CONS: Similar to composites, glass ionomers are not as strong as amalgams.
Our office only dispenses tooth-colored fillings (composites and glass ionomers). Many dental offices today are slowly discontinuing the use of amalgam for fillings. Partly because most patients prefer non-noticeable restorations and fear the hazards of mercury in the mouth.
If you believe you might need a filling please give our office a call for an appointment!
[Photo Source: http://www.aacd.com.au/amalgam-fillings.htm]