Nobody wants to have a cavity. But when you’re proactive about getting treatment after noticing signs of tooth decay, there are effective options for treating it! Fillings are the treatment of choice for most small- to medium-sized cavities. They can restore a tooth’s normal function, strength, and appearance, as well as alleviate any sensitivity or pain caused by the cavity. It's estimated that the average American has three fillings, and one in four people has at least 11 of them1 — numbers we're hoping to bring down with Beam Perks.
The two most common materials to choose from when you need a filling are amalgam and composite. The guide below tells you what you need to know about both so you can make an informed decision for your dental health!
Amalgam fillings are made of primarily mercury, but they also contain silver, tin, and other metals. They’re the silver fillings you’ve probably seen before or maybe even have yourself. While some people have concerns about the mercury content in amalgam fillings, the ADA, CDC, FDA, and WHO have all declared it safe2.
Amalgam is very durable and can last at least 10 to 15 years3. That, in addition to being easy to see when opening your mouth, makes it ideal for back teeth (molars) that use the most force when eating. It also hardens quickly, so the procedure takes less time than composite filling placement. That being said, the dentist may need to remove healthy tooth structure to make room for an amalgam filling3.
Composite fillings are made of acrylic and ceramic, and their biggest advantage over amalgam is appearance. The white, tooth-colored resin provides a more natural appearance than silver fillings that can be seen when you open your mouth4. Composite fillings can be placed on both front and back teeth. However, over time, chewing tends to wear them down quicker than amalgam. Composite typically lasts around five years5, but you can maximize its lifespan by brushing and flossing, getting regular dental exams, and wearing a mouthguard if you grind your teeth at night.
It will also take a bit more time for the dentist to apply a composite filling because it takes longer to dry5. On the plus side, they won’t need to remove as much healthy tooth structure as they would for an amalgam filling. And the part you probably care about most: Composite often costs more than amalgam — but that’s not always true when you have a Beam plan! In many cases*, Beam doesn’t downgrade on filling material, meaning composites are covered at the same cost.
What to expect during a filling
It’s natural to be nervous about needing a filling. Advances in dentistry and technology have, fortunately, made it a fairly easy and painless process. This post discusses what you can expect during a tooth filling!