While it is possible to keep them healthy for life, odds are your teeth will require treatment at some point. In fact, most us of experience our first oral health issues while we are still in grade school. We are speaking, of course, about tooth decay. Often caused by excessive sugar intake, tooth decay can lead to a hole in a tooth called a cavity. And as we all know, cavities must be filled to prevent further damage to teeth. Teeth sealants should be considered as well.

In the past, amalgam fillings made of metals such as silver or gold were used to stop the spread of a cavity and to improve the damaged tooth’s structural integrity. Generally speaking, they performed quite well because amalgams were durable and easy to work with. They did not, however, maintain their alluring luster for long.

What Happens?

No matter which metals are used, most amalgams corrode over time and turn a dark gray, even black color. They also begin to wear out after about a decade, which increases the risk of future decay to an already compromised tooth. It is for this reason that many people with old metal filings choose to replace them with a new, non-metallic option.

What Are Resin Fillings?

Most of us know resin as a kind of plastic that is used to make everything from furniture to jewelry. But putting it in our mouths? Actually, resin is much safer than most dental amalgams, since it does not contain mercury — a metal that is linked to a laundry list of health risks. Resin is also durable and strong and will not change shades over time. Made of tooth-colored plastic, composite fillings are virtually undetectable by the untrained eye, and they’ve become the preferred choice in most cosmetic dentist offices.

Who Needs Them?

Anyone who has a cavity that must be filled is a candidate for composite resin fillings. But because they are more expensive than traditional metal amalgams, they are more popular with adults than with kids. After all, a child may lose his deciduous teeth before they have a chance to change colors and become unsightly.

How Expensive Are They?

The good news is that many dental insurance plans cover the cost of composite filings. That said, they generally only pay 50% to 80% of the total bill. The remainder must be paid by the patient. And since resin composites are pricier than metal amalgams, you will pay more out of your own pocket to the cosmetic dentist.

Are They Worth It?

If you ask the average cosmetic dentist, odds are she will say that composite resin is clearly superior to metal amalgam. Not only is it more attractive and more versatile, it should also last longer with proper care.