When a tooth needs to be filled there is no ideal filling material that adequately replaces the original tooth substance.
The most common filling in use is Dental Amalgam which is a grey metallic filling. It has been used successfully for over 100 years in dentistry.
Some patients have concerns with amalgam because of its mercury content although the general scientific consensus is that it is safe to use.
Tooth-coloured fillings have been used for over 50 years for front teeth. In the past 30 years, there have been significant developments in tooth-coloured fillings for back teeth. Tooth-coloured filling materials are essentially plastic strengthened with ceramics. They offer an alternative to amalgam in many situations.
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How do they compare?
Tooth-coloured fillings match the colour of the teeth and are more esthetically pleasing. They are the treatment of choice for the front teeth. They may also be the treatment of choice in small fillings in back teeth because they often require less tooth substance to be removed in their preparation. Tooth-coloured fillings are likely to cost more than the equivalent amalgam filling.
There are many different materials available and your dentist will advise you as to which is most suitable in your case.
Are there disadvantages?
Tooth coloured fillings are likely to wear more quickly than amalgam on back teeth. They are not suitable or strong enough for some situations, particularly where there is already a large filling in a tooth. They may therefore need to be replaced more frequently.
They may discolour although they can be polished or resurfaced relatively easily in most cases. Some patients experience more sensitivity after composite fillings.