Amalgam (“Silver”) Fillings VS. Resin (“Tooth-colored”) Fillings

“What’s the difference in those silver fillings and the pretty ones?”…

we’re asked this question often!

We usually place esthetic “tooth colored” or resin fillings but there are situations that call for “silver”or amalgam fillings.  Below you’ll find information on each type:

  • Amalgam Fillings (“Silver Fillings”)

Known as “silver” fillings, amalgam fillings are durable metallic fillings, which are, today, used less often in dentistry thanks to the advances in esthetic filling materials. There are circumstances that still call for the use of amalgam.

  • Resin Filling (“Tooth-colored Fillings”)

Resin (“tooth-colored”) fillings are the standard for those visible areas that require a more esthetic alternative, but can also be used as the material of choice for most fillings now days thanks to great advances in dental materials.

amalgam fills and resin

Dr. Hughes can further explain which filling material is the best alternative for your individualized needs but here’s a quick run down of some of the most important points…

>>”Silver fillings”= amalgam while “tooth colored fillings”= composite resin (i.e. resin fillings are much “prettier.”)


>>Yes, silver fillings are cheaper than white fillings UPFRONT, but may save you money over the long-run and will ALWAYS save you tooth structure.

We say “UPFRONT” because here’s where a silver filling may end up costing you more:

If you have a silver filling placed then end up getting a new cavity on that same tooth, 9 times out of 10 that silver filling will have to be replaced in its entirety because amalgam cannot bond to amalgam meaning the new filling ends up being a larger fill than necessary as more surfaces must be filled now equating to a larger filling and higher cost.

Whereas, resin will bond to resin.  If a resin filling was placed the first time and a new cavity develops in the future, then only the new area of decay will need to be filled—saving you money AND tooth structure.

>>Composite fillings are BONDED to the tooth, while amalgam fillings are retained through mechanics only.

So resin fillings allows ONLY the diseased tooth to be removed and nothing more (i.e. less prep and more retained tooth structure). This also allows the filling to flex and respond to forces more like that of the natural tooth structure.

Amalgam fillings do not “bond” but are retained by mechanics instead.  Because of this, it is necessary to remove more tooth structure for mechanics and retention if an amalgam filling is going to be placed making the tooth more suseptible to fracture in the future.

>>The great thing about amalgam is it’s durable, but the bad thing about amalgam is it’s durable.

Yes, that’s a contradiction you’ll hear Dr. Hughes say at least once a day. Amalgam is so strong that under chewing forces, if something is going to break, it is the tooth structure around the amalgam filling rather than the fill itself. Also remember with this point, amalgam means less natural tooth structure remaining due to the preparation of the tooth for the mechanics of the material.

>>Amalgam fillings contain mercury.

Yes, amalgam fillings contain mercury but not enough to cause medical problems.
In fact, amalgam contains less mercury than a tuna fish sandwich. The American Dental Association still endorses amalgam as a safe and viable dental filling material—no matter what hooplah Dr. Oz is putting out there!!!

>>Composite fillings can discolor over time.

>>Amalgam fillings can permanently discolor the natural tooth structure surrounding the filling over time. This grey/black discoloration can only be covered (with a crown) or prepped away when the filling is replaced (now even more tooth structure is lost).