Most everyone knows the procedure for filling a cavity: After the suspicion of tooth decay has been confirmed by an exam and X-rays, you recline in the chair while your dentist numbs the tooth being treated, and then removes the decay with a dental drill or another handheld instrument. After that, it’s time for the actual filling. But unlike the old days, when tooth fillings were a one-size-fits-all proposition, there are now several types of filling materials available.
The classic silver filling, which we call “dental amalgam,” is actually an alloy of silver, tin, copper and mercury. It’s strong, inexpensive, and has proven safe and reliable through decades of use. However, it requires more tooth preparation than other types, and it’s quite noticeable. Fillings made of gold alloy have the same general attributes as amalgam — except they’re more expensive.
Tooth-colored fillings are becoming increasingly popular, mainly because they blend right in with your teeth. They may be made of porcelain, composite resins, or other high-tech materials. They typically require less removal of healthy tooth structure to achieve a successful bond, but generally are more expensive.
Each filling material has advantages and disadvantages in particular circumstances. But don’t worry — your dentist will recommend which ones would be best in your individual situation. Learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth-Colored Fillings.”