9 Things to Consider When Selecting the Ideal Dental Filling

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For dental fillings in and near San Diego dentists can offer you a choice from two types of material. One is metallic, or amalgam, and has been around since before the Civil War. The other is the newer resin, or composite, material.

Dental Filling

Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings have a silver or darker coloring. The dentist applies the material in soft state, which hardens and builds the tooth back to its original form. They are less expensive and more appropriate for back teeth, which bear the most stress in biting.

Composite Fillings

Having the consistency of soft modeling clay, composite fillings are tooth colored and more cosmetically pleasing. The dentist carefully applies the resin then shines a blue light from a handheld instrument on the soft resin. The resulting chemical reaction hardens the resin into a strong, natural looking filling.

Nine things to consider when choosing your dental filling materials

For esthetic reasons, most patients would prefer tooth-colored fillings and would choose composites as their dental filling types, especially for the more highly visible front teeth. Likewise, dentists recommend the darker colored amalgam fillings for back teeth. The following is brief rundown on things to consider when choosing between amalgam and composite dental filling types:

1. Amalgam is stronger

Your back teeth are where you put the most force when crushing your food. Amalgam is a strong metal and wears down less quickly than the softer composite resin filling.

2. Composite fillings cost more

Dentists charge more for composite filling work. The procedure requires far more attention to detail and more steps.

3. Amalgam is longer lasting

Although composite filling materials are improving steadily, amalgam wears down at a slower rate. Amalgam fillings typically last around 12 years, and composite fillings last half that long.

4. Composite fillings aren’t as noticeable as amalgam

An amalgam filling on a back tooth won’t stand out much, but if you don’t like the idea of having dark fillings everywhere, you’ll probably want to go the composite route.

5. Amalgam fillings contain mercury

Mercury, a toxic substance, is incorporated in amalgam. But it is sealed within the hardened filling, and the amount released to your system is far less than you would expect from eating fish. The FDA determined in 2009 that dental patients were not at risk for any mercury-related adverse health problems.

6. Composite fillings can leak Bisphenol-A (BPA)

BPA is a harmful chemical found in plastics and food and drink cans. Current evidence from extensive medical studies indicates that the extremely small amount of BPA that can leak from a composite filling is unlikely to cause any harm whatsoever.

7. Amalgam fillings require deeper drilling

More of the healthy tooth structure is lost in order to seat the filling.

8. Composite fillings shrink

and can result in gaps between the filling and the tooth.

9. Composite fillings require greater skill

for successful application. This is why they are more expensive.


Dr. Fakhimi graduated From University of Nevada with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He then attended one of the top ranked dental schools in the country, Tufts University of Dental Medicine in Bodr-ali-fakhimiston where he excelled in his class and received his Doctorate degree in 1997.

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Eliza Cranston
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Thank you for the advice on composite and amalgam dental fillings! I can see why dentists would recommend amalgam for back teeth. Since it’s stronger, it seems like it would be best for filling molars that do a lot of work. However, composite fillings would be nice for front teeth since they blend in to the color of your teeth. Is it more expensive to get composite than amalgam fillings?

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