For over 150 years standard fillings have been made out of a silvery-grey material called ‘amalgam’, which is made up of mercury and a mixture of metals. This is still one of the strongest and longest-lasting materials available for fillings. However, many people find it unattractive and some are concerned about possible health risks.

White/tooth-coloured fillings are now a popular alternative to amalgam fillings.These filling are often referred to as composite fillings. The characteristcs of these latest dental materials mean it is much easier to find a perfect match for the shade of a particular tooth. In most cases, it is quite impossible to see that the tooth even has a filling.

At St Pauls, in almost every case where fillings are needed, white/ tooth-coloured filling materials will be used in preference to silver mercury fillings. Modern, state of the art materials manage to combine excellent aesthetics and cosmetic improvement with high flexural and tensile strength, fracture toughness and wear resistance.

 Some patients request that all their metal fillings be replaced with tooth-coloured restorations, while others decide to have a metal filling replaced with composite only when it is clinically necessary to do a filling.

Advantages of white fillings

  • Since they bond to the tooth, composite fillings restore most of the original strength of the tooth. Silver weakens the teeth, making them more susceptible to breaking. Since broken teeth are very expensive to restore, composites can save a lot of expense over the long run.

  • Composite fillings restore the natural appearance of the tooth.

  • Composites are mercury-free. Mercury in  fillings is viewed by some as being toxic.

  • Composites require less removal of tooth structure. Especially with new cavities, the size of the hole made for the filling can be dramatically smaller with composites.


Advantages of silver amalgam fillings

  • They are generally less expensive. Composite fillings, if they are done correctly, take about 60% longer, require special expertise and expensive materials, and are more difficult to place, and so they cost considerably more than silver. Dental insurance companies will sometimes not pick up this extra cost.

  • The proper placement of a white filling requires that the site for the filling be kept totally isolated from saliva while it is being placed. In the very back of the mouth, on some patients, it is difficult to keep the tooth isolated for the duration of the procedure. This can also be uncomfortable for some patients. A silver amalgam filling does not require this strict isolation of the tooth.

  • The filling by itself is a stronger material, although it weakens the tooth.

  • Silver fillings have a longer history of use than mercury-free fillings, thus some feel that they are more tried and tested.

Not every case is suitable for white fillings. Here at St. Paul's Dental Care we will advise you if they are appropriate for you.