If you have a cavity that needs to be filled, there are a lot of materials available for you to choose from. Here are some of the pros and cons of each to help you decide at your next dental visit.
Gold is one of the most durable materials for dental fillings since they are impervious corrosion. Some patients are able to maintain this kind of filling for a decade or more. While you may not love the aesthetics of gold, it's a great choice for back teeth since it can withstand strong chewing forces. Plus, if you have gold on molars, it won't be easily seen as anterior teeth.
The main downsides of gold are cost and galvanic shock. Galvanic shock can occur when a gold filling is placed near silver amalgam fillings. An electro-chemical current can transfer through your saliva, thus causing pain and a shock-like feeling.
Arguably the best part of porcelain fillings is their aesthetics. Porcelain is semi-translucent and bright, so it looks very much like your natural teeth. Like gold, it's a very durable material and can more than a decade. A downside is porcelain can be abrasive, so if it isn't set correctly, rough edges of the filling can wear down enamel. Also, like gold, it can be pretty expensive and may not be covered by insurance.
Composite is one of the most popular fillings because it is reasonably priced and aesthetically pleasing. While composite is durable for small- and medium-sized fillings, it does tend to break down with larger corrections. If you tend to grind your teeth, it can also break down more easily than other materials.
Silver amalgam has been used in the dental industry for a very long time. It is often the least expensive material to purchase and may be covered by your dental insurance. You should try and get amalgam for smaller fillings, however, as the dentist may have to take more of your enamel away to place it.
If you foresee an inlay, onlay, or crown in the future, another material may be better. While amalgam is very safe, there is a risk of mercury gas escaping if a filling needs to be removed for these larger restorations.
Lastly, while very few people have metal allergies, there is a possibility that silver amalgam may cause a reaction. If you are unsure whether you are allergic, you can get a Metal-LTT test to see how your body responds to different metals. If you have an allergic response from the testing, it's safer to go with a different material.
Contact your dentist for more information about the pros and cons of each material used for tooth fillings.