Dental Fillings: Types, Pros, and Cons

Types of dental fillings

When Do I Need a Dental Filling?

When someone has ongoing tooth decay, cavities form. Cavities create holes in your teeth and can cause inflammation, pain, stains and, worst of all… give you terrible breath.

The answer to cavities is dental fillings, which fill in the decayed area. This revitalizes a tooth’s strength, structure and look.

What type of dental filling is the right one for you? Are you leaning toward the silver amalgam fillings? Would you prefer the look of a composite filling? Here is a rundown of the pros and cons of each type of dental filling courtesy of Fairview Dental, your new primary dentist in Fairview!

Pros and Cons of Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings are the oldest. They have been used to treat cavities for about 150 years. Often referred to as “silver fillings,” amalgam fillings continue to be used by dentists today. They get their gray, metallic colour from being a compound of silver, copper, tin and mercury. While that last substance could be eyebrow-raising, the Alberta Dental Association (ADA) deems the mercury levels in those fillings safe.

Advantages of Amalgam Fillings

While there are people who prefer the more natural look of a composite filling, there are major upsides to amalgam fillings:

  1. They are the most cost-effective material for fillings.
  2. They are robust and lasting (over a decade with proper care, sometimes two).
  3. They harden quickly, making for quicker treatment.
  4. They are good for filling particularly larger cavities.

Disadvantages of Amalgam Fillings

Despite the lower price and quality of strength, there are some downfalls:

  1. The silver colour is quite eye-catching, even if they’re in the back of the mouth.
  2. They can expand and contract due to temperature changes, possibly resulting in small fractures.
  3. It requires more of the tooth’s structure to be removed for placement to occur, weakening the tooth over time.
  4. There are more do’s and don’ts with amalgam fillings. (ex: avoiding certain food & drinks)
  5. This one is rare, but metal allergy patients could react to the amalgam.

Pros and Cons of Composite Fillings

Tooth-coloured composites have been in rotation since the 1960s. They have increased in popularity, leading some dentists to not offer amalgam fillings. They are generally used to fill small to moderately sized cavities. They are the main material to fill a cavity now for many reasons.

Advantages of Composite Fillings

  1. Custom colourizing blends them seamlessly with the rest of the tooth.
  2. They can be used to fix minor cosmetic issues. (ex: reshaping a tooth, fixing a chip)
  3. They bond well to teeth decreasing any chance of fillings popping loose.
  4. Temperature doesn’t affect them, so there is no expanding or contracting.
  5. More of the natural tooth is preserved, and more of the original structure stays intact.
  6. There are far fewer aftercare instructions.

Disadvantages of Composite Fillings

There are a few reasons why people don’t go with composite fillings.

  1. They last, on average, 5 – 7 years, which isn’t the longest.
  2. They are more expensive.
  3. There is a longer treatment time to complete the filling as it is a more complex process.

Pros and Cons of Ceramic Fillings

Another type is ceramic fillings. This isn’t ceramic like a coffee mug that says “#1 Dentist in Fairview;” it is much stronger. These fillings are made most often of porcelain. Much like the other two types, there are pros and cons to weigh.

Advantages of Ceramic Fillings

  1. They are tooth-coloured giving them a natural look
  2. The material lasts over 15 years on average.
  3. They strengthen the tooth due to the nature of the bonding process.
  4. They are quite stain-resistant.
  5. Not affected by temperature changes, no expansion/contraction.

Disadvantages of Ceramic Fillings

  1. They are very expensive.
  2. Can wear down the teeth they make contact with during chewing.
  3. They may require the removal of a tooth or reduction of a tooth’s size

Comparison of Different Types of Dental Fillings

Let’s compare the filling types and rank them based on the pros and cons list. 

Green Square = Highly Desirable / Yellow Square = Moderately Desirable / Red Square = Least Desirable

 

Amalgam

Composite

Ceramic

Look

Silver, noticeable on teeth

Blend in with teeth

Blend in with teeth

Cost

Cost-effective

Expensive

Very Expensive

Durability

Very Strong

Strong

Very Strong

Longevity

10 – 20 Years

5 – 7 Years

~15 years

Temperature

Contraction/Expansion

No Effect

No Effect

Effect on Teeth

Requires more sizeable structure loss to place

Minimal effect on filled tooth & surrounding teeth

Impacts surrounding teeth over time

  • While amalgam is the least expensive option, it possesses more of the less desirable qualities.
  • While ceramic is a very expensive option, it possesses more highly desirable qualities.
  • Composite sits in the middle regarding cost and desirable qualities.

Choosing the Right Type of Dental Filling

It’s all about the right fit for you. It is something you and a good dentist will figure out together. The ways dentists have looked at it in the past are:

  • The ideal choice for the most natural finish and largest longevity is ceramic; unless it’s too expensive, then composite is an excellent choice. They likely won’t last as long as amalgam fillings, but you compromise for beauty and the freedom of temperature.
  • The ideal choice for some concerned more about longevity and less about appearance would be amalgam fillings. You save money, they last a long time, and they set quickly.

There are always other factors that require consideration separate from personal desires, like if it’s a tooth in the back of the mouth, with greater decay causing a sizable cavity, an amalgam filling is the better choice.

Feeling Unsure? Reach Out to Us!

Are you seeking convenient dental fillings near you or trying to find a quality dental clinic in Fairview? We’ve got you covered! Contact us now for more information or to book your consultation!

Fairview Dental

Phone – (780) 835-2194

Email – allsmiles@fairviewdentalclinic.com

FAQ

Q) Can dental fillings be replaced if they start to fail or wear down over time?

Yes, in fact, they will have to be replaced to continue to protect the tooth from damage and decay.

Q) What can I do to maintain the longevity of my dental fillings?

Five ways to prolong dental fillings are:

  1. Good Oral Hygiene – Brush twice a day and floss at least once daily.
  2. Avoid foods & beverages that cause stains
  3. Avoid chewing on something hard.
  4. Visit a dentist near you regularly.
  5. 5. (Optional) Wear a mouthguard.
(825) 254-5853