There is now considerable debate surrounding the use of mercury amalgam fillings which are unsightly and fail to strengthen teeth weaken by decay. The result is that many dentist and patients prefer mercury free alternatives.
Tooth colored resin composites are the best materials for restoring small regions of decay in most teeth. Often called White fillings (To distinguish them from dark amalgam) these materials produce very good cosmetic results.
ADVANTAGES OF WHITE FILLINGS:
Since they bond to the tooth, composite fillings restore most of the original strength of the tooth. Silver fillings weaken the teeth, making them more susceptible to breaking. Since broken teeth are very expensive to restore, composites can save a lot of expense over the long run.
Composite fillings restore the natural appearance of the tooth.
Composites are mercury-free fillings. Mercury in the fillings is viewed by some as being toxic.
Composites require less removal of tooth structure to place. Especially with new cavities, the size of the hole made for the filling can be dramatically smaller with composites
ADVANTAGES OF SILVER FILLINGS:
They are generally less expensive. Composite fillings, if they are done correctly, take longer and are more difficult to place, than silver fillings.
The proper placement of a white filling requires that the site for the filling be kept totally isolated from saliva while it is being placed. In the very back of the mouth, on some patients, it is difficult to keep the tooth isolated for the duration of the procedure. This can also be uncomfortable for some patients. A silver amalgam filling does not require this strict isolation of the tooth.
The filling by itself is a stronger material, although it weakens the tooth.
Silver fillings have a longer history of use than mercury-free fillings, thus some feel that they are more tried and tested.
One caution - the composite fillings can be seriously weaken by excessive alcohol consumption. If you have a habit of drinking beverages with high alcohol content (whiskey, etc.) on a daily basis, you may find the composite fillings deteriorating prematurely.