Also known as composite or white fillings, these are the latest technology for restoring a tooth.
White fillings use a strong composite material that bonds to your teeth, resulting in a strong but natural looking restoration which can be colour matched to your teeth. They provide long-term strength resulting in an aesthetically pleasing tooth, free from mercury and less susceptible to hot and cold sensitivities.
Tooth-coloured fillings have been used in front teeth for cosmetic reasons for many years. Recent improvements have made tooth-coloured fillings more affordable and they are often used as an alternative to dental amalgam. However, tooth-coloured fillings may not always be suitable. For example, this material may not be the best choice for a large filling in a back tooth.
Dental amalgam fillings
Dental amalgam can be used for filling molars (back teeth) that get a lot of wear and tear. Amalgam is an alloy made up of a mixture of metals, usually including silver, tin, copper, zinc and mercury.
Mercury in dental amalgam
Some people are worried about the use of dental amalgam because it contains mercury. While high levels of mercury are harmful to human health, the level of ‘free’ mercury (mercury that could get into the body) in set amalgam fillings is so tiny that it has no effect on health.
International reviews of the scientific evidence have not linked the use of dental amalgam directly with poor health. The current advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia is that, for most people, this very low level of mercury exposure will not affect their general health. There is also no evidence to support any connection between dental amalgam and cancer.
Some countries have been trying to phase out the use of amalgam fillings for environmental reasons. Although mercury occurs naturally in the environment, incorrect disposal of dental amalgam can add to mercury levels in the environment that build up in the food chain.