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Porcelain Fillings vs. Silver Fillings

Porcelain and silver fillings are among the most common fillings used to treat cavities. According to the National Institutes of Health, cavities affect an estimated 92% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64. Knowing more about these two types of fillings can help you determine which material may be best for you if you or your family needs treatment for cavities.

Here’s more about porcelain vs silver fillings, and where you can go to find quality dental treatment for cavities.

Table of Contents

The Difference Between Porcelain and Silver Fillings

Porcelain fillings are made from oxygen and silicone that has been compounded into a strong non-crystalline glass material. Porcelain fillings are highly durable and generally used to fill large cavities on molars and other teeth located at the back of the mouth. These fillings are also the same color as your teeth so they can blend in without diminishing the brightness of your smile.

Silver amalgam fillings are less durable than porcelain fillings and are made with a combination of metals including mercury, silver, tin, and copper. According to the FDA, mercury makes up an estimated 50% of a silver amalgam filling. Silver fillings tend to be less costly than porcelain fillings, but are often shorter-lasting and more noticeable due to their dark, silver color.

Some people prefer porcelain fillings over silver amalgam fillings because they are less noticeable and do not break down and do not release small amounts of mercury into the body. However, the EPA stresses that silver fillings are safe and effective, and that there is little evidence that suggests they compromise the health of those who choose these fillings.

Signs You Need a Filling

The best way to determine whether you need any fillings is to see your dentist for an examination. Your dentist can check for cavities and talk to you about any symptoms you’re experiencing.

Signs of cavities and tooth decay include:

  • Sensitivity or pain in teeth when consuming foods and beverages that are hot, cold, or sweet, including citrus fruits
  • Sensitivity or pain when brushing teeth
  • Spontaneous pain in teeth, or toothaches
  • Pain when chewing or biting
  • Visible holes or pits in teeth
  • Tooth stains that are brown, black, or white
  • Rough or jagged feeling on the surfaces of teeth

When to Replace a Filling

Many types of fillings—especially silver fillings—may need to be replaced at some point due to normal wear and tear from eating and drinking, or from grinding or clenching teeth. Your dentist can usually tell whether it’s time to replace one or more fillings when performing an examination.

It may be time to replace your fillings if you notice signs of wear such as cracks or shallow indentations, or if tooth pain and discomfort returns. Any additional decay that forms around a filling may also require it to be replaced, even if it seems to be intact. If you need one or more fillings replaced, your dentist can discuss your options for different types of fillings and help you choose between porcelain and silver fillings.

FAQs About Fillings

When do I need a filling?

Fillings are used to fill in cavities, which are holes or pits in teeth caused by decay. You may need a filling if you feel pain when chewing or biting, experience random toothaches that come and go, or feel sensitivity when eating and drinking. See your dentist right away if you suspect you may have one or more cavities that require fillings.

Should I replace mercury metal fillings with porcelain fillings?

While many people fear the chance of mercury poisoning with metal fillings, it’s not the reason most dentists encourage the removal of metal fillings. Metal fillings corrode over time and the corrosion causes the filling to expand. When the filling expands inside of the tooth, it causes the tooth to crack from the inside. The crack then grows and leads to a broken tooth while biting down. The crack can also continue into the nerve of the tooth leading to the need for a root canal therapy and crown or even worse – extraction of the tooth. Porcelain fillings do not expand over time and therefore present a much safer option for filling teeth over time.

What materials can be used in fillings?

Porcelain, silver, composite resin, and glass-acrylic blends are materials commonly used in fillings. Ask your dental team about the materials they use as well as the pros and cons of each. Your dentist can recommend the best materials for you based on your unique situation. Sarasota Dentistry offers high-grade porcelain fillings that can last a lifetime.

How long do silver fillings last?

Silver fillings can potentially last for up to several years, as long as you maintain good oral health and see your dentist regularly for checkups. Your dentist can give you a more accurate estimate regarding how long your silver fillings may last based on your oral health status and the appearance of your fillings.

What are porcelain fillings?

Porcelain fillings are made with ceramic, or porcelain materials that are strong and durable, and that can be made to match the color of your teeth. Porcelain fillings are known to last longer than silver fillings and are often preferable to patients who want durable and less noticeable fillings that won’t affect the appearance of their smiles.

Porcelain fillings are made with ceramic, or porcelain materials that are strong and durable, and that can be made to match the color of your teeth. Porcelain fillings are known to last longer than silver fillings and are often preferable to patients who want durable and less noticeable fillings that won’t affect the appearance of their smiles.

When will a dentist use silver fillings over porcelain fillings?

A dentist may recommend silver fillings over porcelain fillings when the filling is located in a hard-to-see spot that cannot be seen when smiling, laughing, or talking. Silver fillings are also often less costly than porcelain fillings. Your dentist can provide a recommendation during your appointment.

Sarasota Dentistry offers porcelain fillings for cavities, along with a wide range of other general and cosmetic dentistry services. Contact us today at (941) 929-7645 to request an appointment and to learn more about our available treatments and fillings for cavities.

Dr. Hank Michael DMD