Closeup of a dentist doing dental treatment on a young Mexican girl

Types of Dental Fillings: Comparing Amalgam, Composite, and More

The process of restoring and repairing teeth has improved year after year, making patients more relieved to go to dentist appointments. If you’ve had teeth cavities before, one popular repair treatment your dentist will recommend is getting dental fillings. These are typically used to repair teeth that have been affected by decay or minor damage.

However, because of modern dentistry, there have been more options used to repair teeth. You can choose from amalgam, composite, gold, ceramic, and glass ionomer. Let’s take a look at each one of them.

Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings, also known as silver fillings, are one of the most common dental fillings and have been the OG dental filling for more than 150 years. They consist of a mixture of metals, including silver, mercury, tin, and copper. This combination creates a durable and long-lasting filling material.

Advantages of Amalgam Fillings

  • Durability: Amalgam fillings are famous for their longevity, often lasting from 10 to 15 years or more.
  • Strength: They are robust enough to withstand the forces of chewing, which makes them ideal for filling molars.
  • Cost-Effective: Amalgam fillings are generally more affordable than other types of dental fillings.

Disadvantages of Amalgam Fillings

  • Appearance: The silver colour of amalgam fillings can be noticeable, which may be a concern for some patients, especially when placed in visible areas.
  • Mercury Content: Although the mercury in amalgam is considered safe for most patients, it has been seen that more than 30% of Australians are concerned about it as mercury can be a concern for those with specific health conditions or allergies.
  • Temperature Sensitivity: Amalgam fillings can expand and contract with temperature changes, potentially leading to tooth fractures over time.

Amalgam fillings are also safe to use for most people according to Australian Dental Association

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are made from a mixture of plastic resin and fine glass particles. These types of fillings are another popular option for many patients since they can be designed to mimic the colour of natural teeth. So, if you do not want to alter the aesthetics of your teeth, this should be a good option.

Advantages of Composite Fillings

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Composite fillings are excellent options typically for front teeth or other visible areas of the teeth. Because they can blend seamlessly with the natural teeth, using them as teeth filling is not a problem.
  • Bonding Strength: Not only do they blend with the colour of the teeth, but they also bond directly to the tooth structure. These fillings provide additional support and help to prevent breakage.
  • Versatility: Composite fillings don’t only fill cavities on your teeth. They can also be used to repair chipped, cracked, or worn-out teeth.

Disadvantages of Composite Fillings

  • Durability: Composite fillings are durable, but they are not as long-lasting as amalgam fillings. Choosing this filling also means you may need to get them replaced more frequently.
  • Cost: Composite fillings are generally more expensive than amalgam fillings.
  • Procedure Time: Placing composite fillings can take longer than amalgam fillings because the material is applied in layers. Each layer needs to be cured with a special light before adding more.

Gold Fillings

Gold fillings, also known as inlays or onlays, are made from a mixture of gold alloy and other metals like silver, copper, and platinum. Because of these materials, they become highly durable and can last for more than 20 years.

Advantages of Gold Fillings

  • Durability: Gold fillings are extremely long-lasting and can last for 20 years or more.
  • Biocompatibility: Gold is well-tolerated by gum tissues and does not cause adverse reactions.

Disadvantages of Gold Fillings

  • Cost: Since gold fillings are made from durable materials, they tend to be more expensive than other types of dental fillings.
  • Appearance: The gold colour is noticeable, which may not be suitable (or preferred) for all patients.
  • Multiple Appointments: Placing a gold filling often requires more than one appointment since this filling would require manufacturing.

Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic fillings, or porcelain fillings, are made from silicon and oxygen, compounded into a non-crystalline glass. Much like composite fillings, ceramic fillings can also copy the colour of your natural teeth, which makes them another common choice for dental fillings.

Advantages of Ceramic Fillings

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Ceramic fillings are great for restoration because they can make the filling look like your natural tooth, giving it a more natural appearance.
  • Stain Resistance: Ceramic is resistant to staining, which means anyone with this filling can be able to maintain its appearance over time.
  • Durability: Ceramic fillings are very strong and can last for many years.

Disadvantages of Ceramic Fillings

  • Cost: Ceramic fillings can be as expensive as gold fillings.
  • Brittleness: While strong, ceramic can be more brittle than other materials and may require more tooth structure removal to place.
  • Complex Placement: Placing ceramic fillings often requires multiple appointments and removing more tooth structure compared to composite fillings.

Glass Ionomer Fillings

Glass ionomer fillings are usually made from a mixture of glass powder and organic acid, particularly polyacrylic acid. They are typically used for smaller cavities, particularly in children’s teeth or for areas near the gum line where fluoride release can be beneficial.

Advantages of Glass Ionomer Fillings

  • Fluoride Release: These fillings eventually release fluoride when applied to the teeth, which can help protect teeth from further decay. This makes them perfect for teeth that are prone to future cavities.
  • Ease of Application: They bond well to the tooth structure, which means they create a good seal and potentially require less tooth removal compared to other materials.

Disadvantages of Glass Ionomer Fillings

  • Durability: Glass ionomer fillings are not as durable as composite or amalgam fillings and may need to be replaced more frequently.
  • Appearance: They cannot copy the colour of your natural tooth, making them less pleasing, unlike composite or ceramic fillings.

Filling In for A Brighter Smile

Getting to know your choices of dental fillings can help you make informed decisions about your dental health. Selecting the right type of dental filling depends on various factors, including the location of the cavity, the extent of the decay, your budget, and your aesthetic preferences.

So, don’t choose a filling right off the bat. Talk to your dentist first before you even start your treatment. With our dental professionals at Superior Smiles, we believe that every client deserves transparency to make an informed decision. We also commit to providing the highest quality dental care to ensure you can enjoy your teeth for a long time.

Call our team at (08) 9254 6510 to book your appointment.

Superior Smiles | Fremantle Dentist Perth