Fillings: Composite VS Amalgam

fillings1For decades the silver amalgam filling has been the go-to filling for dentists, but since the development of tooth-colored composite fillings, that has changed. You now have a choice when it comes to dental fillings. What is the difference between composite and amalgam and when it comes to fillings, which one should you choose?

Silver Amalgam

Most everyone is familiar with the silver amalgam filling. In fact, if you open your mouth and look at your back teeth you may have at least one yourself. Dental amalgam fillings are a combination of silver, tin, and copper held together with mercury. The mercury is what allows the amalgam (mixture) to be manipulated to fill the cavity. Amalgam fillings are popular for the following reasons:

  • They are less expensive than gold or composite fillings.
  • They are long-lasting and durable.
  • Their strength often makes them the material of choice for back teeth.


Tooth-colored composite fillings consist of a mixture of plastic and silicon dioxide (glass). They have become the material of choice for front teeth because they blend with the surrounding dentition. When first developed, they were not considered strong enough for back teeth, but over the years the material has undergone many improvements and that has changed. The major benefit of a composite filling is esthetics. The material can be blended to match the color and shade of the patients’ natural teeth. Other benefits include:

  • They are bonded to the tooth which helps strengthen the original tooth structure.
  • Not as much of the original tooth structure needs to be removed to accommodate a composite filling.
  • Composite fillings can be repaired without removing the whole filling.
  • They are less expensive than gold fillings.