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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Medical Devices

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Alternatives to Dental Amalgam

Other materials can also be used to fill cavities caused by dental decay. Like dental amalgam, these direct filling materials are used to restore the biting surface of a tooth that has been damaged by decay.

Your dentist can discuss treatment options based on the location of cavities in your mouth and the amount of tooth decay.

The primary alternatives to dental amalgam are as follows:

Every restorative material has advantages and disadvantages.

Composite Resin Fillings

Picture of a tooth with a composite resin filling.

Composite resin fillings are the most common alternative to dental amalgam. They are sometimes called “tooth-colored” or “white” fillings because of their color. Composite resin fillings are made of a type of plastic (an acrylic resin) reinforced with powdered glass. The color (shade) of composite resins can be customized to closely match surrounding teeth.

Advantages of composite resin fillings include:

  • Blend in with surrounding teeth
  • Require minimal removal of healthy tooth structure for placement

Disadvantages of composite resin fillings include:

  • May be less durable than dental amalgam and may need to be replaced more frequently
  • • Cost more than some other types of dental filling materials

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Glass Ionomer Cement Fillings

Like composite resins, glass ionomer cements are made of an acrylic resin and often include a component of glass that releases fluoride over time. These fillings are also tooth-colored but are not as close to tooth-colored as composite resins. The composition and properties of glass ionomer cements are best suited for very small restorations. Their primary advantage is their appearance. Their chief disadvantage is that they are limited to use in small restorations.

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Gold Foil Fillings

Gold foil fillings are used to restore cavities on biting surfaces. The advantages of gold foil fillings include their strength and durability. The disadvantages include their cost and appearance (they do not match tooth color).

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