Not all dental fillings are made the same. Overall, composite fillings are a better option than metal amalgam. Not only are they free from toxic mercury, but they’re much more attractive, and they can be placed in smaller cavities, which allows for less invasive dentistry. But are composite fillings really the best option?
Explore all the different dental filling options available to see why composite fillings might not be the best choice.
The Different Types of Dental Fillings
There are lots of different dental fillings on the market. Which one is right for you? Learn the differences between dental fillings.
Silver Amalgam Fillings
One of the most popular types of fillings is silver amalgam fillings. Silver amalgam fillings contain a mixture of minerals including 50% silver, zinc, and copper, and 50% mercury. Most people avoid amalgam fillings due to their mercury content (mercury is toxic to humans) even though the FDA claims it is safe. Amalgam fillings are cost-effective, strong, and durable sometimes lasting at least 12 years. However, amalgam fillings have disadvantages. They do not look natural. The material can also contract and expand over time which can crack the teeth and cause space between the tooth and filling where food and bacteria can collect.
What’s the difference between amalgam fillings vs composite? Composite fillings use a combination of plastic and resin material. Dentists place the soft material into a tooth after removing decay and then use a blue curing light to harden it. They’re also colored to match your surrounding teeth for a seamless, natural blend. Composite fillings have no disadvantages aside from not lasting as long as amalgam fillings. On average, composite fillings last five to ten years. Although the cost of composite resin fillings is higher than amalgam, their benefits outweigh the extra cost.
Glass Ionomer Fillings
A less common type of dental filling is glass ionomer fillings. These types of fillings are made with glass and acrylic and are best for children with ever-changing teeth. The glass ionomer fillings release fluoride but only last for a handful of years. They’re also significantly weaker than composite fillings and are more likely to crack or wear out. The fillings also don’t match tooth color as well as composite fillings.
You probably won’t feel surprised to know that gold fillings are the most expensive type of fillings. Not many dentists offer gold fillings. Although they’re sturdy, non-corrosive, and can last 20 or more years, they can be irritating for some patients since gold conducts heat and cold.
The last type of dental filling is ceramic fillings. Ceramic fillings are made with porcelain which is both durable and attractive. They’re a little more expensive than composite fillings but they’re more resistant to staining and more durable.
Why Composite Fillings Fail
This study was a review and meta-analysis of studies published on the failure rates of composite tooth-colored fillings. According to an analysis of studies published from 2006 to 2016, composite fillings have a failure rate of about 13%. Pooling all the studies led to a consideration of a total of about 4300 restorations, which included nearly 570 failures.
The studies showed that most composite fillings failed for three common causes:
- Restoration fractured (39%)
- Cavities around the restoration (secondary decay) (26%)
- Fracture of the tooth containing restoration (24%)
As you can see, these causes accounted for about 90% of restoration failures. Remarkably, only 1% of failures were attributed to residual soreness of the filling.
The only place composite fillings are not as good as metal amalgam fillings, generally, is durability.
A Better Approach to Tooth-Colored Fillings
Still, many people are unhappy that composite fillings have a relatively high failure rate. They may wonder whether they have to go back to metal amalgam fillings to get long-lasting results.
Not at all. We offer a much more attractive option that also has a lower failure rate than metal amalgam fillings: ceramic fillings, sometimes described as porcelain inlays or onlays. These are made of high-durability advanced ceramics. In one 15-year study, they had a failure rate of just 1.1%, lower than any kind of filling: even less than gold!
The advanced ceramic material allows these fillings to resist fractures that would affect either the restoration or the tooth.
Thanks to our CEREC system, these fillings can be completed in just one visit. They’ll be custom-crafted while you wait so that they precisely fit your teeth. There’s no hassle of a second visit to get these highly durable fillings.
Plus, you’ll love the fact that these fillings are so closely matched to your natural teeth that even you may be unable to see where they are.