From your parents to grandparents and teachers, they most likely have told you many times to start your day with a smile. If you heeded their advice, chances are, you’ve gone through the day feeling happier.

It turns out that there’s a scientific reason for this. Smiling triggers the release of feel-good hormones, including dopamine and serotonin. As a result, your mood elevates, and you likely feel less stressed.

However, it can be hard to smile if you have tooth problems, especially cavities.

Fortunately, you can still have your pearly whites restored with a composite filling. Depending on the extent of the problem, your dentist may recommend this treatment.

But while composite resin fillings have saved many teeth, they still have limitations.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of composite fillings. Read on; what you learn here can help you decide if they’re right for you. 

Pro: Can Stop Further Tooth Damage

The earliest stages of cavity formation don’t always have symptoms. However, your dentist can spot them during your regular dental checkups. This is another reason to say hello to your dentist once or twice a year.

When cavities exhibit symptoms, they usually start with tooth sensitivity. They may also cause pain when biting, eating, or drinking something sweet, cold, or hot. In other cases, the toothache is sudden and without any apparent cause.

To keep the cavity from growing, go for a dental visit right after noticing those symptoms. This way, your dentist can remove the decayed parts of the tooth to stop the disease from spreading. They can then fill and seal the hole with a composite filling.

You also don’t have to worry about the filling affecting your tooth’s appearance. Your dentist will match its color to that of your pearly whites. This helps maintain their natural looks and makes it difficult to tell that you have fillings. 

Con: Shorter Lifespan Than Amalgam

Amalgam is the oldest of all dental filling materials. It’s been around for over a century, saving the teeth of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. It’s also durable and less likely to degrade than other fillings, such as composite.

Amalgams can last around 10 to 15 years. On the other hand, composite fillings typically have a five to seven-year lifespan. 

Pro: Mercury-Free

Despite the longevity of amalgam, many still choose composite because it’s more aesthetic. Moreover, composite fillings don’t contain mercury. By contrast, it’s the primary ingredient of amalgam fillings.

Dental amalgam comprises about 50% elemental (liquid) mercury by weight. The rest is usually a mixture of silver, copper, and tin.

Over time, amalgam can release low mercury levels in vapor form. That makes it inhalable and potentially absorbable by the lungs.

Studies link exposure to high mercury vapor levels with adverse health effects. However, researchers have found no association between amalgam fillings and health problems. For the same reason, the FDA regards them as safe for adults and children at least six years old. 

Still, the FDA says some people may be at a higher risk for mercury-associated health effects. These include individuals with mercury sensitivities or metal allergies.

Composite fillings comprise acrylic materials strengthened with powdered glass fillers. This makes them suitable for people who want (or need) to avoid mercury exposure.

Con: Placement May Take Longer Than Amalgam

Regardless of the type of filling you get, your dentist must first remove the diseased parts of the tooth. After thoroughly cleaning the treated tooth, they disinfect it. The smaller the cavity, the less time and prep work needed before placing the filling.

Now, let’s say you’ve chosen an amalgam filling. Your dentist mixes the mercury with the encapsulated powdered alloy. Your dentist can immediately place and shape the putty into the prepared tooth.

Once placed, the amalgam putty rapidly hardens. So, including prep work, your dentist may finish within 30 to 45 minutes (per tooth).

Composite resin fillings take longer because your dentist must place them in layers. Each layer may also undergo “photo-polymerization” using UV light that cures the material.

The UV-aided curing process helps harden the composite filling faster. However, the entire procedure can still take about 15 minutes more than amalgam. You can expect to spend about 45 to 60 minutes (per tooth) in the dentist’s chair.

Pro: Can Fix More Than Tooth Decay

Were you biting your nails when you heard a “crack” sound and a small part of your tooth broke away? Or maybe you bit or chewed on something hard that caused your tooth to chip. Perhaps you have a minor diastema, the clinical term for gaps between the teeth.

If so, worry not; your dentist can also fix them with composite filling. They can mold it into the appropriate shape to restore your cracked or chipped tooth. Likewise, they can use it to “extend” the teeth with a gap between them. 

Con: Slightly More Expensive Than Amalgam

Amalgam is the least expensive of all types of dental fillings. Depending on the size, location, and the number of holes per tooth, they can cost between $50 and $200.

Composite fillings are slightly pricier, ranging from $90 to $250 on average. 

Pro: Requires the Removal of Less Tooth Structure

When you choose composite fillings, your dentist will remove less tooth structure. This helps you retain more of your natural tooth’s composition.

Your dentist can also bond composite fillings directly to the tooth structure. This helps reinforce, stabilize, and provide further support to the tooth.

With amalgam fillings, your dentist may have to remove more of the tooth structure. This is often necessary to create a space that can accommodate the filling.

Smile Confidently With Composite Filling

A composite filling can help restore decayed, cracked, or chipped teeth without the metallic look of amalgam. And while it costs more than amalgam, it looks better because it mimics the color of your natural teeth.

If you’re ready to improve and protect your smile, Dr. Lyons and the hardworking members of North Seattle Orthodontics are happy to help! We invite you to connect with us today so we can enlighten you on your options for making your pearly whites healthier and straighter.