Amalgam Restoration (aka, Silver Filling):
Amalgam is a dental filling material that has been used for over 150 years. Amalgam restorations are often referred to as “silver fillings” because of their silver color. In general, cavities on the back teeth benefit from amalgam restorations because they provide superior durability and wear. Amalgam is not typically placed on front teeth for esthetic purposes. The placement of an amalgam restoration is less technique sensitive, meaning it’s an excellent choice for areas where moisture control (excess saliva, adjacent gum tissue, wiggly patient) may complicate filling placement.
Amalgam is a mixture of metals including tin, silver, copper, mercury, and zinc. Mercury is a necessary component of an amalgam restoration because it binds the particles together and increases the durability of the material. Amalgam restorations are strong and long lasting, and their safety has been reaffirmed in numerous clinical trials over the past several years (http://www.ada.org/en/about-the-ada/ada-positions-policies-and-statements/statement-on-dental-amalgam). In addition to the proven clinical safety, all team members at our office utilize techniques to minimize the amount of mercury exposure to your child during amalgam placement and/or removal.
Amalgam Restoration Post-Op Instructions:
Amalgam restorations take 24-hours to fully set and harden, so children should avoid eating hard foods for 24 hours after placement. Acceptable food choices include yogurt, applesauce, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, soft sandwiches, etc. The placement of an amalgam restoration typically requires local anesthetic (numbing). Please follow the local anesthetic post-operative instructions described above. Once home, your child may require a dose of an over-the-counter pain medication, such as Motrin or Tylenol. Please follow the dosing instructions on the package, and contact the dentist if the pain does not resolve or worsens. An amalgam restoration should be brushed and flossed like a natural tooth.
Composite Restoration (aka, White Filling):
Composite is a dental filling material that bonds to natural tooth structure. It comes in a variety of shades to match the tooth’s natural color, making it the more esthetic choice for restorations. Composite is composed of resin and filler. The application of ultraviolet light triggers a chemical reaction to harden and cure the material. Although the material hardens quickly, its application is very technique sensitive and requires a completely dry tooth surface. Therefore, placement of composite may be difficult in very young, wiggly patients.
Composite restorations can be placed on front and back teeth. Compared to amalgam, composite requires less tooth structure removal for placement. Composite restorations are also more easily repaired, as amalgam typically requires complete removal with chipping or fracture. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that composite is more prone to staining, post-operative sensitivity, and recurrent decay (new decay in the area of the filling). We value your opinion in the selection of filling materials, and we encourage parents to discuss the options with our dentists.
Composite Restoration Post-Operative Instructions:
Composite restorations are fully cured (hard) upon dismissal from our office. However, their placement often requires local anesthetic (numbing). Please follow the local anesthetic post-operative instructions described above. Once home from the appointment, your child may require a dose of an over-the-counter pain medication, such as Motrin or Tylenol. Please follow the dosing instructions on the package, and contact the dentist if the pain does not resolve or worsens. Composite restorations on front teeth are more prone to chipping and cracking. Therefore, it’s important to assist your child in cutting hard foods (carrots, apples, corn-on-the-cob, etc.) into smaller pieces that can be placed on back teeth. It is also important to limit your child’s intake of foods and drinks that may cause staining. A composite restoration should be brushed and flossed like a natural tooth.