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Dr Dennis Holly at West River Dental in Bend OregonDr Dennis Holly at West River Dental in Bend Oregon

Hi there, I am Chuck. You may see me at the dentist office here in Bend Oregon. Can you guess what kind of dog I am?Hi there, I am Chuck. You may see me at the dentist office here in Bend Oregon. Can you guess what kind of dog I am?


Right-handed people, tend to chew food on their right side, while left-handed people tend to chew on their left side.


When it comes to our teeth, our body cannot repair itself as it would a broken leg. When a hole is created in a tooth either by chipping a tooth, a cavity, or tooth decay our body does not have the ability to fill it.


Before the invention of fillings... tooth decay would become so bad, people would have to have the tooth removed. Thankfully, modern dentistry has found a way to allow us to keep our damaged teeth. Once the bad part of the tooth is professionally removed, a substance that becomes as hard as our own teeth is inserted. This is commonly known as dental filling.


Silver or White... Which is Right?

There are several kinds of fillings which can be used to fill a tooth. The two most common are Amalgam or silver fillings and Composite or tooth-colored fillings. Each type of filling comes with a set of pros and cons and with the help of a skilled, knowledgeable dentist you can choose which option is best for you. 

Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings are silver in color and are made up of mercury, zinc, copper, tin, and silver. This type of filling has been used since the 1800's and is a tough and durable filling. A low-cost, long-lasting filling has allowed this filling to be called the "tried and true" method of filling teeth. 

Amalgam Filling on MolarAmalgam Filling on MolarDrawbacks

Some drawbacks to mercury fillings are that they are indeed made with a high amount of mercury which is toxic to the body. When bonded with the other metals that makes up amalgam, the mercury is locked within the filling. Silver fillings can also be aesthetically non-pleasing and is usually used on teeth that cannot be seen when one smiles (the back teeth or molars). They can conduct heat and cold giving an initial sensation to the wearer causing a sensitivity over the short term.

Is it safe?

There have been scores of studies that have been done worldwide that has shown when mixed properly, Amalgam fillings show no adverse effects and the amount of mercury leakage from a filling is much less than eating fish. Some organizations that have showed silver fillings to be completely safe: American Dental Association (ADA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute Committee on Excellence, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

PLEASE NOTE: Dr. Dennis Holly & West River Dental does not perform procedures with fillings using amalgam. Although the above studies and agencies have found the procedure safe, there is still a chance of mercury leakage and the benefit of lower cost vs. patient health is not great enough to endanger anyone in any way. 

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are much newer than amalgam fillings and the technology keeps improving. Composite resin is a tooth-colored substance the color of your teeth and the consistency of modeling clay. The dentist molds the composite to fill the hole in the tooth and then shines a bright blue light on it to allow it to harden. With experience and technique composite fillings can look like your original tooth.

Wand emitting blue light to cure composite resinWand emitting blue light to cure composite resinDrawbacks

Composite fillings are quite a bit more expensive than amalgam fillings. Dental insurance may not cover the full price of such a filling leaving the patient to pay the difference between an amalgam filling and a composite filling. This should be discussed with the staff before having your tooth filled. Composite fillings on average last half as long as traditional fillings thus increasing the long-term cost of the filling. Because a composite filling is not as strong as a silver filling, a composite filling may not be advisable where hard biting occurs.

How to Choose

Today you have choices in what types of filling is appropriate for you. Dr. Dennis Holly and his staff at West River Dental take the time to explain the different types of fillings and the positives and negatives of each. Deciding on the correct filling for your situation is crucial to the longevity and overall happiness of each patient.

The choice of filling you choose with your dentist may not be as fun as choosing which type of ice cream to buy, but could affect how much you enjoy it! Keep smiling!