Amalgam fillings are silver-coloured fillings that are offered as standard when you need to have a cavity filled. They are considered to be safe and they are strong and durable. However, they do contain very small amounts of mercury, and some people don't like the idea of their fillings containing even small amounts that are well within the established safe range. A patient's choice and preference have shaped advances in dentistry, and there are now alternatives to traditional amalgam fillings for those who prefer tooth-coloured fillings or want a filling material that doesn't contain mercury. Here's an overview of three alternatives to amalgam fillings.

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are composed of either ceramic or acrylic resin. They are BPA-free and your dentist will use the same technique to fill a cavity with a composite filling that they would if they were using an amalgam filling. Composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam fillings and they generally don't tend to last as long, but they are durable.

Glass Ionomer Cement Fillings

Glass ionomer cement fillings are not as common as composite fillings. They are composed of silicate glass powder and polyacrylic acid, and when these materials are combined the result is a strong filling that can be used to fill a cavity on any part of a tooth. These fillings are applied gradually in thin layers, and between applications, a polymerisation lamp is used to cure the material. Once the filling is complete, the dentist will polish it to create a smooth surface that blends in with your natural tooth.

Organically Modified Ceramic Fillings

Organically modified ceramic is a newer material being used to fill cavities. It's touted as being free of toxins and it's tooth-coloured, which could make it attractive to those seeking to enhance the appearance of their smile. Although organically modified ceramic fillings are strong, they are not as strong as amalgam fillings, so they are not always suitable for use on molars, particularly if the cavity is large. However, they can work well on non-chewing surfaces of other teeth.

The best filling material for you will depend on your budget, the location of the cavity and the size of the cavity. Your dentist will discuss your options with you and make recommendations based on your personal circumstances.

Cavities can worsen when left untreated and can leave you susceptible to developing a bacterial infection. If you think you have a cavity, or if you're overdue a visit to the dentist, schedule an appointment for a check-up. For more information, contact a dentist near you.