There are alternatives to conventional silver-colored fillings. Natural-looking materials made from a composite of glass and resin are shaded to match natural tooth enamel. Unfortunately, few materials can match the strength and durability of dental amalgam and such, composite resins may need more frequent replacement. However, tooth-colored fillings are bonded to tooth structure and can provide additional support for weak or cracked teeth. Common amalgam alternatives include:
Composite fillings -- composite fillings are just what the name implies: a mixture of resins and fine particles designed to mimic the color of natural teeth. While not as strong as dental amalgam, composite fillings provide a pleasing aesthetic alternative. Sometimes, composite resins need to be cemented, or bonded to a tooth to allow for better adhesion.
Ionomers -- Like composite resins, these materials are tooth-colored. Ionomers are made from a combination of various materials, including ground glass and acrylic resins. Ionomers are typically used for fillings near the gum line or tooth root, where biting pressure is not a factor. They are more fragile than dental amalgam, however. A small amount of fluoride is released by these compounds in order to facilitate strengthened enamel in the affected area.
Porcelain (ceramic) -- This material is usually a combination of porcelain, glass powder and ceramic. Candidates for porcelain fillings are typically crowns, veneers, onlays and inlays. Unlike ionomers, porcelain fillings are more durable but can become fractured if exposed to prolonged biting pressures.