What is the difference between amalgam and composite fillings?

Used by dentists for more than a century, dental amalgam is the most thoroughly researched and tested restorative material among all those in use. It is durable, easy to use, highly resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other materials.

Dental amalgam is a stable alloy made by combining elemental mercury, silver, tin, copper and possibly other metallic elements. Although dental amalgam continues to be a safe, commonly used restorative material, some concern has been raised because of its mercury content. However, the mercury in amalgam combines with other metals to render it stable and safe for use in filling teeth. The major U.S. and international scientific and health bodies, including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organisation, among others have been satisfied that dental amalgam is a safe, reliable and effective restorative material.

Because amalgam fillings can withstand very high chewing loads, they are particularly useful for restoring molars in the back of the mouth where chewing load is greatest. They are also useful in areas where a cavity preparation is difficult to keep dry during the filling replacement, such as in deep fillings below the gum line. Amalgam fillings, like other filling materials, are considered biocompatible—they are well tolerated by patients with only rare occurrences of allergic response.

Disadvantages of amalgam include possible short-term sensitivity to hot or cold after the filling is placed. The silver-coloured filling is not as natural looking as one that is tooth-coloured, especially when the restoration is near the front of the mouth, and shows when the patient laughs or speaks. And to prepare the tooth, the dentist may need to remove more tooth structure to accommodate an amalgam filling than for other types of fillings.

Composite fillings are a mixture of glass or quartz filler in a resin medium that produces a tooth-coloured filling. They are sometimes referred to as composites or filled resins. Composite fillings provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small-to-mid size restorations that need to withstand moderate chewing pressure. Less tooth structure is removed when the dentist prepares the tooth, and this may result in a smaller filling than that of an amalgam. Composites can also be "bonded" or adhesively held in a cavity, often allowing the dentist to make a more conservative repair to the tooth.

The cost is moderate and depends on the size of the filling and the technique used by the dentist to place it in the prepared tooth. It generally takes longer to place a composite filling than what is required for an amalgam filling. Composite fillings require a cavity that can be kept clean and dry during filling and they are subject to stain and discoloration over time.

What is a CR Splint?

A centric relation splint is a horse-shoe shaped, hard acrylic appliance worn on the biting surfaces of the teeth (similar to athletic mouth guard) to prevent bruxism, muscle soreness, excessive wear of the teeth and joint pain.

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is an abnormal grinding or clenching of the teeth causing excessive wear of the teeth and joint and or muscle pain.

What is a crown?

Commonly referred to as a "cap," a crown is a tooth shaped covering for a tooth that has been decayed, broken or otherwise compromised such as after Root Canal therapy. This covering is permanently cemented over all surfaces of the tooth to help prevent additional decay and to restore the full function of the tooth. A crown can be made of metal, porcelain or a combination thereof.

A bridge is a series of 2 or more crowns connected together. Usually a bridge spans the space where there are one or more missing teeth.

How long will my crown or bridge last?

Taking into account all the types and qualities of crowns and bridges made, the national average life time of a crown or bridge is 7-10 years. Your crown or bridge can last much longer if you practice good oral hygiene and nutrition, and you don't have any abnormal function such as bruxism.

What is Root Canal Therapy?

Root canal therapy is the removal of the pulp tissue, including the nerve, inside the root(s) of each tooth. The entire canal is cleaned and shape to provide access for the insertion of a biocompatible material that seals each root and keeps bacteria out.

Is bleaching or teeth whitening really safe?

Yes, bleaching or teeth whitening is safe. It does not remove the enamel from the teeth - only the surface stains and discoloration. The material is used to remove the discoloration is peroxide in a solution that holds the peroxide close to the surfaces of your teeth. This process often causes temporary sensitivity. Everyone is not a candidate for teeth whitening. If you are interested, consult with your dentist.

If I am already taking antibiotics, why do I still have to pre-medicate with a large dose right before my dental appointment?

Antibiotics taken before a one hour before a dental procedure should be a different kind than the one you are already taking. This "loading" or large dose is intended specifically to fight or prevent bacteria from gathering around the leaky valve in your heart.

Why does the dentist need "so many x-ray films"?

Radiographs, commonly referred to as x-rays, are required for a number of reasons. Radiographs are primarily used to diagnose bone loss, abscesses, cavities, tumours, cists and other oral cavity disease. The reason for the number of radiographs is due mainly to the size of each film. Each film only covers a specific area of your mouth. Therefore, usually 16 to 18 are required to adequately diagnose the condition of your mouth. This large number is taken about every three to five years depending on the patient's health history. Radiographs of the molar areas are generally taken once each year.

What is deep cleaning or root planing and scaling?

Deep cleaning is a procedure that is meant to clean the areas of the teeth at or below the gum line where there is plaque and tartar build-up. This build up contributes to the separation of the gum tissue from the roots of the teeth and causes "pocketing." This is what is commonly called, gum disease. Root planing [deep cleaning] is done while the patient is numb and smooths the roots of the teeth to allow for healing and the reattachment of the gums to the roots of the teeth.

Why should I buy a Sonicare toothbrush?

The Sonicare toothbrush is the newest generation of electric toothbrushes. The brush uses movement and vibration (sonic waves) to "bubble" the paste between the teeth and to remove plaque and stain. Studies have shown that, with extended use, your teeth will stay cleaner and with less stain.

For those patients who have a habit of scrubbing or brushing their teeth too hard, and thereby cause their gums to recede, the Sonicare toothbrush eliminates the need for strong hand/arm movements with a traditional toothbrush. This scrubbing can lead to recession, root sensitivity, decay, gum disease and the eventual need for grafting that recovers the exposed areas of the roots of the teeth.

What does my dental insurance cover?

If you have dental cover on your health insurance your insurance provider may pay some of your dental treatment costs. The amount paid by your dental insurer depends on the cover that you hold with that health fund. If you have any questions about your dental coverage, they should be addressed to the insurance fund first. There you will provide you the most accurate information.

Once you have a treatment plan given to you by your dentist, this treatment plan can be submitted to your insurance fund for their evaluation and determination of potential out of pocket payment. No payment may be guaranteed by any dentist. Our dentist can only provide your insurance carrier the information it needs to determine whether or not a claim will be paid.

Why would I need an extraction?

A dental extraction (also referred to as exodontia) is the removal of a tooth from the mouth. Extractions are performed for a wide variety of reasons, including tooth decay that has destroyed enough tooth structure to render the tooth non-restorable. Extractions of impacted or problematic wisdom teeth are routinely performed, as are extractions of some permanent teeth to make space for orthodontic treatment.

Scale and cleans

Teeth cleaning is part of oral hygiene and involves the removal of dental plaque from teeth with the intention of preventing cavities (dental caries), gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Dentist and dental hygienists can remove hardened deposits not removed by routine cleaning. The objective of scaling or deep cleaning, is to remove or eliminate the etiologic agents which cause inflammation: dental plaque, its products and calculus,[1] thus helping to establish a periodontium that is free of disease.

What is Gum Health?

Gum disease affects most people at some time during their life. It is usually caused by a build-up of plaque on teeth. One of the common signs of gum disease is bleeding gums. Careful and regular cleaning of your teeth and gums each day can help prevent gum disease.

Getting treatment for dental problems early can help save teeth that are at risk from gum disease and other conditions. See your dentist or oral health professional if you have swollen or bleeding gums or loose teeth.

There are two main stages of gum disease:

  • Gingivitis .
  • Periodontitis.


Gingivitis is early gum disease and occurs when dental plaque builds up on teeth, particularly where the gum joins the tooth. The signs of gingivitis are bleeding, redness and swelling of the gum.


Periodontitis is an advanced gum disease that may occur if gingivitis is not treated. The gum margin, - the part of the gum that seals to the tooth, - is weakened and spaces form between the tooth and the gum. These spaces are called 'periodontal pockets.' Bacteria and their products become trapped in these pockets causing further inflammation (redness and swelling).

The structures affected by periodontitis include the covering of the tooth root (cementum), the bone and the fibres that connect the cementum to the bone (periodontal ligament). As the disease progresses and bone is lost, larger spaces begin to form between the tooth and the gum. Signs of periodontitis include bleeding, swelling and receding gums together with bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth and loose teeth.

What is Fluoride Treatment?

Fluoride therapy is the delivery of fluoride to the teeth topically or systemically in order to prevent tooth decay (dental caries) which results in cavities. Most commonly, fluoride is applied topically to the teeth using gels, varnishes, toothpaste/dentifrices or mouth rinse. Systemic delivery involves fluoride supplementation using water, salt, tablets or drops which are swallowed. Tablets or drops are rarely used where public water supplies are fluoridated.

What are Removable Partial Dentures (RPDs)?

A removable partial denture (RPD) is for a partially edentulous dental patient who desires to have replacement teeth for functional or aesthetic reasons, and who cannot have a bridge (a fixed partial denture) for any number of reasons, such as a lack of required teeth to serve as support for a bridge (i.e. distal abutments) or due to financial limitations.

The reason why this type of prosthesis is referred to as a removable partial denture is because patients can remove and reinsert them when required without professional help. Conversely, a "fixed" prosthesis can and should be removed only by a dental professional.

What are Complete Dentures?

Dentures, also known as false teeth, are prosthetic devices constructed to replace missing teeth, and which are supported by surrounding soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity. Conventional dentures are removable, however there are many different denture designs, some which rely on bonding or clasping onto teeth or dental implants. There are two main categories of dentures, depending on whether they are used to replace missing teeth on the mandibular arch or the maxillary arch.

What are dental veneers?

In dentistry, a veneer is a thin layer of restorative material placed over a tooth surface, either to improve the aesthetics of a tooth, or to protect a damaged tooth surface. There are two main types of material used to fabricate a veneer, composite and dental porcelain. A composite veneer may be directly placed (built-up in the mouth), or indirectly fabricated by a dental technician in a dental laboratory, and later bonded to the tooth, typically using a resin cement such as Panavia. In contrast, a porcelain veneer may only be indirectly fabricated.

What are Composite Veneers?

In dentistry, a veneer is a thin layer of restorative material placed over a tooth surface, either to improve the aesthetics of a tooth, or to protect a damaged tooth surface. There are two main types of material used to fabricate a veneer, composite and dental porcelain. A composite veneer may be directly placed (built-up in the mouth), or indirectly fabricated by a dental technician in a dental laboratory, and later bonded to the tooth, typically using a resin cement such as Panavia. In contrast, a porcelain veneer may only be indirectly fabricated.

Advantages of Composite Veneers v/s Porcelain Veneers


Preferred Provider For

  • Medibank Private
  • BUPA
  • HBA
  • MBF
  • Mutual Community


  • Brighton East Dental Clinic

  • 677 Hawthorn Road, Brighton East, VIC 3187

  • Tel: 03 9578 8500
  • Fax: 03 9578 8900
  • Email: admin@brightoneastdental.com.au