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Comparison of Filling Materials for the back teeth

If your dentist has advised you that you need to have fillings in your teeth, you have a choice as to the type of filling material that we use. The main choice is between amalgam (silver mercury) and composite (white) fillings. Please read the following so that you are able to make an informed decision about which type of filling you would prefer.

Amalgam fillings

Sometimes called “silver”, “mercury” or “metal” fillings. Amalgam is a mixture of silver, mercury, copper and some other trace metals

  • Available on the NHS for adults
  • Cheap
  • Very strong and usually long-lasting


  • Not attractive
  • Contain mercury
  • The tooth surrounding the filling may become brittle and break off
  • Not available for children or pregnant women

Summary: Amalgam fillings are most suitable for very deep cavities towards the back of the mouth where appearance is not important

Composite fillings

Sometimes called “white” or “tooth-coloured” fillings

  • Natural appearance
  • Bond strongly to the surrounding tooth to reduce the chance of tooth breakage
  • Do not contain metals
  • Often less tooth drilling needed


  • More costly and time consuming to place
  • Not possible to place where moisture control is difficult
  • Not so suitable for very deep cavities at the back of the mouth

Summary: Composite fillings are most suitable for shallow cavities or brittle teeth – especially where appearance is important or when you wish to avoid having metal in your mouth.

Many people are concerned about the effects of mercury on their health and wish to avoid the use of amalgam fillings. At this practice, we do not feel that there is a convincing case that amalgam should not be used, but would advise you to research the issue for yourself if you are concerned. There is much misinformation on the internet but there are reliable evidence based sites. (See the British Dental Association website: