The most widely used dental materials for filling cavities in teeth are composites and silver amalgam. The huge advantage of composite is that it closely matches the colour of your natural teeth. Hence for aesthetic reasons they are always used on the front teeth and in the more visible areas of the mouth.Although silver amalgam is more durable as a material, composite is probably more widely used today because of its aesthetic value. Other indications for using composites are to repair fractured teeth and worn down teeth, and to close gaps between teeth. Many patients also opt to change old amalgam fillings to white composite fillings. However we must understand that any restoration may not last forever and may need to be changed someday.
What is composite material made from? It is a mixture of sintered glass particles and inert filler material. The more filler material there is the harder the composite is and so the less it will wear down with time. To this mixture is added a colouring so as to give all shades from pure white to light brown.
There is still some controversy regarding the possible health risk from dental amalgam in the mouth because of its mercury content. However to date there is NO scientific evidence to prove that amalgam is detrimental to ones health for the simple reason that the mercury in the amalgam is ‘locked’ in the filling and cannot be released during use of the filling.
The only time when the mercury can be released ( as mercury vapour) is when the old amalgam is replaced and removed with the drill. It is for this reason that the dentist uses the high volume suction pipe when removing old amalgam fillings in order to trap the mercury vapour released.
Is a local anaesthetic ( injection) required when cleaning out a cavity and placing a filling/ restoration? When the cavity is very shallow and does not extend into dentine, then the procedure can be done without an injection and with very minimal discomfort. The dentist wil be able to determine this prior to starting by means of an x ray/ radiograph of the tooth.