If you have a cavity, your dentist will need to remove the decayed part of the tooth and replace it with a filling. There are several types of fillings available, but two of the most common are silver amalgam and resin composite. There are pros and cons to each one, so you'll have to work with your dentist to decide which is right for you. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you research your decision.
Amalgam fillings have an average lifespan of eight to 10 years, but some last as long as 20 years. In fact, these fillings last up to 20 percent longer than resin composite fillings, according to Dr. Simon W. Rosenberg. As of 2014, composite fillings have only been on the market for about 12 years, so dentists still don't know if they have the potential to last as long as their amalgam counterparts. If durability is one of your main concerns, an amalgam filling may be the better choice for you.
The content of amalgam fillings gives them a silver appearance, while resin composite fillings mimic the look of natural teeth. If you need to have a front tooth filled, you may want to ask your dentist to use a resin composite filling. Using a tooth-colored filling will make it less obvious that you've had work done, helping you preserve the appearance of your smile. If you are having a back tooth filled, you don't have to worry as much because an amalgam filling won't be as obvious.
Mercury is the only ingredient that effectively binds the metals in an amalgam filling together. As this type of filling breaks down, it releases tiny amounts of mercury vapor into the mouth. The amount of mercury released is usually less than the amount you are exposed to in your daily life, but if you have any concerns about mercury exposure, ask your dentist to use a resin composite filling. You should also let your dentist know if you have ever had an allergic reaction to something containing mercury; if you have, you'll need to avoid fillings made of silver amalgam.
Due to the concerns associated with the use of mercury in amalgam fillings, some dentists have stopped using amalgam in their practices. Before your appointment, ask if your dentist still offers amalgam fillings. If not, you will have to have another type of filling instead.
Resin composite fillings cost up to two times more than amalgam fillings. If you have dental insurance, your insurer may pay for a composite filling up to the amount a silver amalgam filling would cost. If you are on a tight budget, an amalgam filling may be the way to go. If you decide to go ahead and get a composite filling, contact your insurance company ahead of time to find out how much you should expect to pay.
Some dental insurance plans will not cover resin composite fillings placed in the back teeth. This is because the back teeth are where you grind your food. Amalgam fillings withstand the force of grinding better than resin composite fillings, so your insurer may be reluctant to pay for something that will break down in just a few years. If you still want a resin composite filling, you may have to pay for it out of your own pocket.
When choosing a filling, there's no one-size-fits-all solution for every person. You must consider your budget and level of insurance coverage as well as the expected lifespan of the filling. If you still have questions after reviewing all of these considerations, schedule a consultation with your dentist. Check out sites like http://www.nwidentist.com/ to find more information and dentists in your area.