For well over the first one hundred years of dental medicine, the only available material to fill teeth with was dental amalgam. This is an alloy composed of zinc, tin, mercury, and silver. as well as other metals.
Once the cavity was removed from the tooth, the amalgam was then condensed into the space to replace the missing tooth structure. Although nothing has been scientifically proven that the release of any mercury causes any potential health issues, there are several other drawbacks to this material in present day.
Since dental amalgam doesn’t bond to the tooth, it will often weaken the surrounding tooth structure, resulting in cracks or fracture of the remaining tooth. The material will also become leaky over time due to the expansion and contraction of the material when exposed to heat, cold, and moisture. I spend a significant portion of my time replacing defective amalgam restorations or repairing the broken tooth associated with these dental restorations.
A new dental material called composite resin was first developed and used in teeth starting in the 1980s. It is basically a combination of glass and plastic and can be hardened instantly using a curing light. Since its first development it has undergone many updates and improvements in strength, durability and shade matching. It has the advantage of chemically bonding to the tooth so as not to weaken the surrounding tooth structure, and minimize any leakage around the material. I have been placing this material in both front and back teeth for over 25 years and have seen much less tooth fracture when compared to teeth restored with dental amalgam.
As dental medicine continues to evolve and improve going into the 21st century, these materials will only become more durable and biocompatible. They are now a well established part of the options available for restoring both front and back teeth, and have a proven track record of reliability. This reliability and versatility will only improve going forward