Advantages of Composite Fillings Over Amalgam Fillings

Although amalgam fillings have been used for over 100 years, advances in modern dentistry have made many alternative materials available to the modern dentist.

These alternatives include gold, porcelain, silver amalgam (which is a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, mercury and copper), tooth-coloured plastic, and composite resin fillings. A glass ionomer which is applied in much the same way can be considered a composite resin filling.

The Advantages of Composite Fillings

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  • Aesthetic considerations always play a part in our decisions about dental care. This has been illustrated by more and more dentists and their clients switching to natural-looking composite resin fillings. Silver amalgam fillings, although more durable, don’t match the colour of the surrounding tooth, which is not aesthetically very attractive. Over time the amalgam filling can stain the surrounding tooth. Composites, which are the same colour as the existing tooth, are therefore particularly suited for visible parts of the tooth.
  • Bonding. Because silver amalgam fillings don’t actually bond with the surrounding tooth, a greater portion of healthy tooth has to be sacrificed, to create a cavity big enough to accept the amalgam filling. This is not the case with composite fillings which chemically bond with the surrounding tooth. This means that less of the healthy tooth has to be removed to enable successful bonding.
  • Composites have many Uses. Not only can composite resin fillings be used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay, but the composite resin can be used to repair broken, chipped and worn teeth. Because of the nature of the chemical bonding, composite resins can be sculptured to resemble a realistic tooth surface.
  • More Resistant to Temperature Changes. Amalgam fillings are more susceptible to temperature changes from extreme heat (a cup of coffee), to extreme cold (an ice cream), than composite resin fillings. This means that amalgam fillings will expand and contract too much, which will eventually crack the tooth. This will usually result in the replacement of the damaged tooth by a crown. Composite fillings are less susceptible to temperature fluctuations, and do not pose as great a risk of cracking the tooth.
  • Teeth that have been repaired with composite fillings regain their previous strength and are able to resist chewing forces.
  • Allergic Reaction. There have been documented cases of recipients of amalgam fillings having an allergic reaction to the metals in the amalgam filling. There have been no cases of allergic reaction to the materials used in composite fillings.

Porcelain can also be used in a similar way to composite fillings (inlays and onlays), which creates an extremely hard surface.

There is no doubt that composite fillings provide a suitable alternative to the traditional silver amalgam fillings.

Amalgam fillings are not very aesthetically attractive, which explains the keen interest in composite fillings that has surfaced in recent years. Combine this with the unique bonding properties of composite fillings and the absence of any possibility of an allergic reaction, and you have ample reason to choose composite fillings over amalgam.

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