In the previous few pages of this section, we have summarized amalgam filling (‘silver’ fillings) and composite filling (‘white’ fillings) materials. They are two very different materials that are the most common choices for restoring teeth. As they are so different, they will each suit different circumstances better. This page will help summarize the differences of amalgam vs compositeand explain when each should be used.
“Should I have all my amalgam fillings replaced with composites?”
Generally speaking, it is not advisable to have all amalgam fillings replaced with composite at the one time. Removing restorations that are sound and stable can cause more harm than good.
Most dentists will advise you to not to have amalgam fillings replaced unless there is a definite need. Such need may include:
- Obvious cosmetic problems with a ‘silver’ filling.
- The restoration needs replaced anyway.
- You have a proven toxicity/sensitivity to amalgam.
Differences Between Amalgam vs Composite Fillings
Appearance: The most obvious difference lies in the appearance. Composites can be made to blend in with the natural shade, texture and shape of teeth excellently. ‘Silver’ fillings, on the other hand, can look unsightly in themselves and also leach through the tooth to darken it. Amalgam vs composite; there is only one winner in terms of appearance.
Durability: Traditionally, ‘silver’ fillings have been stronger and longer-lasting than composites. However with newer materials being developed, this gap has narrowed. Therefore white fillings can now be used in most circumstances with similar life-expectancy to that of amalgam. The exception here may be with very large cavities where amalgam (or a crown/inlay) may be more predictable. Thus amalgam is still the preferred choice vs composite for many dentists in some situations.
Uses: Composites are much more versatile than amalgam and as such can be used in a variety of clinical situations. In many situations, white fillings are the only sensible choice. See the page on composite filling for a list of its uses. Amalgam vs composite winner here? Composite.
Safety: By being metal-free, there are no potential metal sensitivity/allergy issues with white fillings. However, white fillings themselves also contain various chemicals that may, in time, prove to cause some problems.
Cost and time: White fillings take longer to place than silver and a greater degree of skill. The materials are also more expensive. These factors make white fillings more expensive to have placed than amalgam. Amalgam vs composite winner here? Amalgam.
Preparing: As composites chemically bond to tooth structure, they can help hold weak parts of the tooth together. They also require less drilling away of tooth structure in many circumstances. Preservation of tooth structure has become central to many dentists work, and white fillings can help in this ‘minimally invasive’ dentistry. Amalgam vs composite winner here? Composite.
Amalgam vs Composite: Summary
Silver and white fillings are very different, not just in appearance. Depending on appearance and a variety of other factors (including cost, the size and site of the filling) you and your dentist can decide on which material is best in each circumstance. There is no straightforward answer to “Which is best: amalgam vs composite”!