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Amalgam and Composite Fillings

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What are amalgam and composite fillings?

A filling is material that a dentist uses to fill a cavity after he or she has removed the tooth decay. Amalgam looks silver in color and is a mixture of metals, including mercury, silver, tin, and copper. Composite fillings are white or tooth-colored and made of a type of plastic. The color of composite can be customized to match your teeth.

What else do I need to know about amalgam and composite fillings?

Both fillings can fail because of the tooth breaking or additional tooth decay under or near the filling. If teeth next to the filling break, that can also cause the filling to fail.

  • Amalgam fillings are strong and long-lasting. They are less likely to break. They are also the least expensive type of filling. In some cases extra tooth surface may need to be removed so the filling will attach tightly. Research shows no negative effects of the metal filings on your health. Amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children of all ages.
  • Composite fillings are strong and blend in with your other teeth. With composite fillings, it is usually not necessary to remove any extra tooth surface to place the filling. They may not be as long-lasting as an amalgam filling. They cost more than an amalgam filling. When placing a composite filling, a light is used to cure the filling as it's placed.

How are fillings applied?

Your dentist will numb your teeth, gums, and mouth where you have a cavity. He or she will drill the tooth to remove the tooth decay. The filling is placed into your tooth to prevent further decay.

How can I help prevent cavities?

  • Brush your teeth at least 2 times a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use dental floss to clean between your teeth at least once a day.
  • Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after meals and snacks.
  • Chew sugarless gum after meals and snacks.
  • See your dentist regularly every 6 months for dental cleanings and oral exams.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe pain or sensitivity in your tooth or jaw.
  • You have swelling in your jaw or cheek.

When should I contact my dentist?

  • You have a fever.
  • You develop tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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