Composite is tooth-colored filling material. Composite filling material, a combination of plastic and glass spheres, has been used for over 60 years. Dentists in the U.S. place more than 122 million dental composites each year. Many dentists today have stopped placing amalgam (aka silver or mercury) fillings for various reasons.
At Cook Family Dentistry, I no longer place amalgam restorations because in order to do so, I have to remove much more tooth structure and the tooth is left at a higher risk of breakage.
Benefits of composite filling material:
- They are bonded to the tooth structure:
- this blocks out bacteria, acids, sugar, saliva from leaking between the filling
material and the tooth
- bonding also helps support the remaining walls of the tooth
- A composite filling can be more narrow and shallow with amalgam/silver fillings because composite is a more flexible material and is bonded into place instead of being held in by mechanical retention only, which undercuts the remaining walls of the tooth.
- Composite can be repaired because it will bond to itself. Amalgam does not bond to itself.
- Composite is tooth-colored, so dark decay that may start to grow in the tooth later can be differentiated from the filling. Amalgam/silver fillings camouflage new decay in x-rays and also upon visual examination.
- Esthetics. Composite fillings are matched to the shade of the natural tooth.
Here are step-by-step photos of the process of removing an old leaking amalgam filling and replacing it with composite:
In this example of a filling we placed in my office, you can see how a silver filling shows through the tooth and makes it look black/grey.