Silver fillings are one way to restore tooth decay on a posterior (back) tooth. A silver filling is a mixture of approximately 50% silver/tin alloy and 50% mercury. After tooth decay is removed and cleaned, this gray-colored material is packed into the tooth and shaped to restore normal function. Because preparing the tooth for a silver filling requires the removal of more healthy tooth structure, it is often not the most conservative and beneficial restoration.
- They are relatively durable.
- Silver fillings have been used for more than 125 years.
- Silver fillings do not bond (stick) to the tooth structure. This requires the preparation to be “undercut,” creating a chamber that is smaller at the surface of the tooth and wider inside. This undercut keeps the filling from falling out of the tooth.
- The undercut process can leave the tooth vulnerable to later fracturing.
- Alternatives to silver fillings include composite fillings, and porcelain inlays and onlays.
Composite fillings are the clear alternative to traditional mercury fillings. Composite fillings can be used to restore small to medium sized areas of decay on a portion of any tooth.
A composite filling is a tooth-colored quartz-like material. After tooth decay is removed and cleaned, this tooth-colored material is layered into the tooth and hardened with high intensity light. After shaping and polishing, the final restoration is virtually invisible.
- Composite fillings are attractive, looking like natural tooth material.
- They contain no mercury.
- They are strong because they bond directly to the surface of the tooth.
- Because they don’t require the severe “undercut” (removal of healthy tooth structure) of a mercury filling, they protect the tooth from fracturing.
Important to note:
- Unfortunately, composite fillings are not as durable or long lasting porcelain alternatives. The lifetime of a composite resin restoration ranges from 3 to 10 years.