Amalgam or Porcelain Fillings: Which is Best for You?
By Kenneth Bagby, D.D.S. on September 07, 2016
Fillings are used to treat cavities or to repair broken teeth. These fillings are usually made from porcelain these days, but fillings made from silver amalgam are also fairly common. Porcelain and amalgam fillings each have their pros and cons, and it is up to you and your dentist to decide which option is best for you.
Porcelain fillings are usually made from a methacrylate matrix filled with very fine porcelain particles. These particles make up roughly 80 percent of the filling, and they give it a creamy consistency when the filling is placed in a tooth. This allows the fillings to be molded into any shape the dentist sees fit. The result is a filling with a white color that matches the natural shape and color of the tooth.
The biggest advantage of porcelain fillings is that they are more cosmetically pleasing than other filling options. Since they match the color of your teeth, people won't be able to tell that you have any fillings at all. Porcelain fillings will also not release any toxic elements after they are placed in your mouth, something that cannot always be said about amalgam fillings. The only problem with porcelain fillings is that they are very technique sensitive, and it takes a skilled dentist to mold them into the proper shape. They also require a tooth to be completely dry before it can be fitted with a filling. This problem can be overcome with a dental dam, but it still presents an obvious challenge.
Amalgam fillings consist of mercury mixed with silver, zinc, tin and copper. They have been used since the 19th Century, and they are known for their durability and relatively low cost. Amalgam fillings typically last between 10 and 15 years, and they easily withstand chewing forces. The major downsides of amalgam fillings is that they aren't as aesthetically pleasing as porcelain fillings and they require more of your teeth to be destroyed when they are being fitted. About one percent of people will also experience allergic reactions to the mercury present in the fillings.
While most people will probably be fitted with porcelain fillings these days, amalgam fillings are still popular for their lower cost and their durability. Your dentist will help you decide which type of filling is best for you.
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