The Truth About Silver Fillings

Almost every week, we have patients who ask us about silver (amalgam) fillings versus tooth-colored (composite) fillings. Many patients express confusion about which type of filling is better, or which filling material lasts longer.

Here are some things to know about amalgam versus composite fillings:

Composite fillings last longer. Several long-term studies indicate that composite fillings wear better against natural teeth and remain intact much longer than the typical amalgam filling. Amalgam fillings begin to breakdown within 1 year of placement.

Amalgam fillings start to “leak” within a year of placement in the mouth. Studies have revealed that within 1 year of placement, more than half of amalgam fillings begin leaking at the margins. In other words, fluid and bacteria begins to creep under the amalgam fillings. Studies with composites showed that less than 2% had any signs of leakage at the end of the first year.

Composite fillings are made of porcelain particles in a resin matrix. It’s a similar material that is used in most commercial airplanes—strong, durable, long lasting. Amalgam fillings are made of a combination of mercury, silver and other metals.

Amalgam fillings stay in a tooth because of mechanical retention. In other words, they stay in because they are mechanically locked in with undercuts in the tooth structure. Even though they stay in, they have moisture and bacteria leaking in—they are failing but not falling out. Composite fillings stay in a tooth because of bonding—they chemically bond with the tooth structure—without undercuts—leading to a better seal and a longer life.

Of course, composite fillings look more like natural tooth structure—they are more esthetic. The main reasons we only place composite fillings is due to their superior wear, strength, seal and bond. Truth be told, we haven’t placed amalgam filling since 1994—composite fillings are that much better.

We hope this helps clear up some of the mysteries about amalgam versus composite fillings.

For more information about fillings, crowns, implants or any other services we provide, please give us a call at [phone] or e-mail us at

Until next time,

Dr. G

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