What’s the Difference Between Metal and Tooth-Colored Dental Fillings?

Posted on: April 2, 2019

Dental fillings are used to seal the space made by a cavity. When tooth decay begins to eat through enamel, it causes small holes to form. Cleaning and removing any tooth decay in these caries is essential to saving the tooth from future destruction.

Once the indentation is sanitized, it must be sealed to protect it from future attack. Dental fillings are an important part of keeping oral health at its best.

Metal dental fillings

Amalgam fillings are comprised of a mixture of metals, including silver, tin, copper and elemental mercury. Roughly half of the composition of metal filling is mercury, which acts as a binding agent to form all the metals into a cohesive piece.

How do they work?

The metals are first mixed by the dentist to form a soft putty. The dentist will then apply the newly formed dental filling into the space where the tooth has been cleaned, preventing bacteria from entering the tooth.


Metal fillings are strong and tend to last longer than other types. The metal has a consistency close to a natural tooth, so it does not pose the risk of breaking under pressure.

Furthermore, metal dental fillings are the cheaper option over the tooth-colored kind. Metal fillings have been around for over a century and therefore have been tested and proven to work in millions of cases.


Many patients do not prefer the way metal fillings look. They are much more noticeable than other fillings, as the silver stands out as direct contrast against white teeth.

The mercury in these fillings poses a problem as well. Although the amount of mercury is considered safe in use for patients six years and older, the vapor produced by mercury in the amalgam can have adverse effects in very young children. However, no such link has been found between adult patients and metal fillings. Metal fillings are generally very safe.

Some can experience allergies to the metals in these fillings. If this is the case, tooth-colored fillings are the better option. Amalgam fillings also require more tooth structure to be taken away in order to be successful.

Tooth-colored dental fillings

Also known as composite resin fillings, these contain no metal. Comprised of plastic and finely ground glass particles, composite fillings come in two different types: direct and indirect.

Direct fillings are placed directly by a dentist and hardened with a blue light. Indirect fillings are produced offsite in a laboratory using an impression of the tooth. It is then installed in a second appointment.


Tooth-colored dental fillings blend in with both the color and shape of the natural tooth. Metal fillings are durable and long lasting on their own, but resin fillings have the ability to bond directly to the tooth, making them sit more securely in place. Because composite fillings adhere directly to the tooth, there is less drilling involved to make them secure.


Tooth-colored fillings have more benefits to teeth health than metal fillings. For this reason, along with a more natural appearance, they are more expensive. Many have success with tooth-colored fillings, and investing in your oral health is worth it.

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