Are there alternatives to Amalgam fillings?
Yes there are.
Composite and Glass Ionomer fillings or laboratory made crowns, veneers and inlays may be used instead. Size, location and cost all are factors in deciding which will be suitable.
What are Composite Fillings and when are they used?
These fillings are made from glass, or quartz in a resin medium.
When placed well the excellent appearance qualities often make it difficult to distinguish them from natural teeth.
They are durable and resistant to fracture when used for small to medium sized fillings.
Unlike amalgam fillings they do not contain any mercury and as they bond to the tooth often less tooth structure needs to be removed and so are a more conservative form of treatment.
Are there disadvantages?
Yes. For the dentist they are more difficult to place as they are technique-sensitive and can only be placed in a dry environment.
For the patient they are subject to staining and discolouration. Also they are more prone to decay round the edges if they are not looked after properly.
Cost-wise they are more expensive as they take longer to place.
They are not as strong as amalgam fillings and should not be used to restore large cavities on back teeth (due to the high loads generated there).
What are Glass Ionomer Fillings?
These fillings are made from acrylic acid and glass powder.
They are suitable for low chewing pressure areas such as the root surfaces.
Glass Ionomer fillings release fluoride and are able to bond to the tooth structure so the cavity preparation is more conservative.
Do they have any disadvantages?
Yes, they are not designed to take loads and have a low resistance to fracture.