The cost of a filling can vary greatly, depending on who you go to, the type of filling and degree of restoration required. An amalgam (“silver/mercury filling”) is cheaper than a composite (white/resin filling), but will last significantly longer if you are unconcerned about aesthetics and the back and forth debate over whether or not amalgams may be linked to other health issues.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) found there is no danger from an amalgam filling, but some specialists and consumers remain unconvinced by the findings.
Each person presents a different set of restorative circumstances, but you should be able to get a range of costs with our free consultation.
The cost of typical amalgam filling ranges from approximately $95 to $275 per filling, whereas a composite resin filling ranges from $150 to $400 for a single surface restoration. You should expect about 3 to five years (possibly 7 years) of use from the composite and as many as 20 years or longer from an amalgam restoration. Actually a well-cared-for amalgam filling can last a lifetime, so the expensiveness of the filling really becomes a minor consideration.
Restorative circumstances are going to vary from tooth to tooth and decay may be found in one small spot or throughout a tooth. The restorative fees are based on the number of surfaces needing filling in a single tooth. A silver amalgam filling on one or two surfaces averages $95 to $175, while for three or more surfaces it could go as high as $150 to $350 or more. The same type of logic follows with respect to composite restorations. Since composite resin fillings are more time consuming and require greater skills to completion they are more expensive than amalgam fillings and weigh in on the more expensive side of caries restorations.
Typically dental insurance covers most or all of the costs of a silver amalgam filling, but only 50 to 80 percent of the cost of a composite filling because the higher charge for the tooth-colored material is considered a cosmetic option. One exception is when an old amalgam filling is cracked or broken and is replaced with a composite filling.
We advise you of the type of filling based on the size of the cavity and the location of the tooth in your mouth. Amalgams are more likely to be placed in the back of your mouth while composites are more likely to be used on more-visible front teeth.
- Amalgam fillings are strong and can withstand the forces of chewing.
- They are relatively inexpensive and last a long time, compared with alternatives.
- An amalgam filling is completed in one dental visit.
- Amalgam doesn’t match the color of your teeth.
- Healthy parts of your tooth often must be removed to make a space large enough to hold an amalgam filling.
- Amalgam fillings can corrode or tarnish over time, causing discoloration where the filling meets the tooth.
- A traditional amalgam filling does not bond (stick) to your tooth, so the cavity preparation developed by your dentist requires undercuts or ledges to provide retention of the filling. Your dentist may have to remove additional tooth structure to establish good retention for the filling.
- Some people may be allergic to mercury or be concerned about its effects, although research shows the amount of mercury exposure from fillings is similar to what people get from other sources in the environment.
- Your fillings will match the color of your teeth and therefore undetectable.
- A filling should be completed in one dental visit.
- Composite fillings can bond directly to the tooth, making the tooth stronger than it would be with an amalgam filling.
- Less drilling is involved than with amalgam fillings because your dentist does not have to shape the space as much to hold the filling securely. The bonding process holds the composite resin in the tooth.
- Indirect composite fillings are heat and light cured increasing their strength.
- Composite resin can be used in combination with other materials, such as glass ionomer, to provide the benefits of both materials.
- Although composite resins have become stronger and more resistant to wear, they generally don’t last as long as amalgam fillings under the pressure of chewing.
- The composite may shrink when placed; this can lead to more cavities in the future in areas where the filling is not making good contact with your tooth.
- This restoration takes more time and skill to place because they are usually placed in layers. The increased time and labor involved also contribute to the higher cost (compared with amalgam fillings).
- Indirect fillings and inlays take at least two visits to complete. Your dentist takes impressions at the first visit and places the filling or inlay at the second visit.
- In large restorations, composites may not last as long as amalgam fillings.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328