A dental restoration or dental filling is a dental restorative material used to artificially restore the function, integrity and morphology of missing tooth structure. The structural loss typically results from caries (decay) or external trauma. Dental restorations may be fabricated out of a variety of materials:
Dental amalgam is a commonly used dental filling that has been used for over 150 years. It is a mixture of several different metals. Amalgam has many advantages over other restorative material, such as low cost, strength, durability, and bacteriostatic effects. Amalgam possesses greater longevity than other direct restorative materials, such as composite. On average, most amalgam restorations serve for 10 to 12 years, whereas resin-based composites serve about half that time. However, with recent improvements in composite material science and a better understanding of the technique-sensitive placement, it should be noted that this difference is decreasing.
The American Dental Association Council of Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.
Dental composites are also called white fillings. Their strength and durability is not as high as porcelain or metal restorations and they are more prone to wear and discoloration. Composites are most commonly placed in “esthetic zones” such as upper and lower front teeth. They can be placed in the molar areas as well. However, they have a higher incidence of sensitivity to temperature changes than other restorative materials. In the molar areas, composites are a more expensive option and many insurance companies cover a smaller percentage for the procedure.