Dental Amalgam (“silver fillings”) is a commonly used dental filling material that has been used for over 150 years, and it is still commonly utilized in our practice. It is a mixture of mercury with at least one other metal. Amalgam has many advantages over other restorative materials, such as low cost, strength, durability, and bacteriostatic effects.
Amalgam is used in dentistry for a number of reasons. It is relatively easy to use and manipulate during placement. It remains soft for a short time so it can be packed to fill any irregular volume, and then forms a hard compound. In some applications, Amalgam may possesse greater longevity than other direct restorative materials, such as composite (“white fillings”). However, with recent improvements in composite material science and a better understanding of the technique-sensitivity of placement, it should be noted that this difference is decreasing and composite is becoming the restorative material of choice in more and more cases.
There are circumstances in which composite serves better than amalgam. When amalgam is not indicated, or when a more conservative preparation would be beneficial, composite is the recommended restorative material. These situations would include small occlusal restorations, in which amalgam would require the removal of a more sound tooth structure, as well as in “enamel sites beyond the height of contour.”
The Canadian Dental Association has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration. You can read the Association’s position on the use of dental amalgam by clicking on the logo below.