Amalgam or resin? Which is best for you? Well, truth is, it depends. It depends on your age, if you have a restoration already in place, your budget, the health of your teeth, and so on. It also depends on your dentist, their assessment of your oral health, and their experience in placing both types of restorations. In short, it’s complicated. That said, it’s not rocket science either -- so here’s a super-quick 5 question Q & A to help inform you at least a little bit.
Q: Which one is safer?
A: Perhaps the biggest question of all as it relates to the decision surrounding amalgam or resin, regards the safety of either material. With amalgam it’s the metals used, and with resin it's the BPA. The American Dental Association has information regarding the safety and efficacy of both solutions, so if this issue concerns you, you can get an accurate understanding of the risks by clicking the links above. The internet is a wonderful research tool, but it's also rife with misinformation, so be sure to come to a conclusion regarding your choice with the input of your physician and well-researched medical sites that reference scientific study.
Q: Is there a preferred solution for certain types of teeth?
A: Generally speaking, resin is the preferred solution for teeth within the smile zone, because it lends a more aesthetic appearance to the restoration (a filling is a type of dental “restoration”). However, improvements in resin-technology have led to greater application of these materials in posterior (back) teeth, as long as a tooth can be properly isolated from moisture while conducting the restoration. Plus, the tooth itself is believed to benefit from the more flexible resin compared to its more rigid amalgam counterpart.
Q: Is there a preferred solution for a certain type of cavity?
A: Yes. Smaller cavities are excellent candidates for resin restorations, while larger cavities are often filled with amalgam. This is also true for cavities that involve a lesser area of the tooth, and that do not involve a large “cusp” area of the tooth. As the development of new resin materials evolves, and as dentists practice greater artistry in their application, opinions are evolving as well.
Q: Which is more expensive?
A: Amalgam is a more affordable alternative and is generally covered in-full by insurance carriers. Depending on the type of insurance, resins are covered in-part or in-full. Because amalgam is less expensive, it is often a preferred solution should a patient have financial constraints.
Q: Which lasts longer?
A: Both possess excellent durability, but their success does rest upon many factors, including those related to materials, the dentist, and the patient. Occasionally, fillings do “fail,” however, often due to the formation of an additional cavity near a prior restoration, a fracture of the tooth, or general wear and tear.