Is Amalgam a Thing of the Past?

A look at the alternatives to amalgam dental fillings.

Going throughout life without so much as a filling is very rare. Whilst some of this may be determined by genetics, much of it depends both on our diet and our general oral health care. One of the most common dental procedures that we carry out at the Smile Dental Practice in Bromley is, perhaps unsurprisingly, fillings.

Dental fillings have long been the method used to save a tooth that has become damaged or has suffered decay. Whilst major damage or decay to a large part of the tooth may need a dental crown to save it, the majority will simply be filled.


First introduced in the US in 1830, amalgam has long been the standard material used to fill teeth. Made from a combination of metals, including silver, tin, copper, zinc and, most controversially, mercury; this has proved to be a strong and resilient option that provides the strength needed to restore a damaged tooth.

The strength factor is an important one as the rear teeth especially, come under a lot of stress when chewing food. A weaker type of filling would simply not be able to take this kind of wear and tear. Amalgam though has two distinct disadvantages, the first obvious, the second more debatable.

Colour – Amalgam is a dark colour and can visually detract from what would otherwise be a pleasant smile.

Mercury – Mercury, which is used in amalgam, is a toxic substance although experts have long argued about its safety when ‘bonded’ within dental fillings.


Whilst tooth coloured fillings have been around for some time, these have generally lacked the strength needed for fillings of the rear teeth. Whilst the materials have been used on front teeth, they simply did not have sufficient strength for use on those at the rear. Recently though, new materials have been developed which now offer almost the same level of strength as amalgam, and without the dark colour issue. These are the ones that we use at our Bromley dental practice.

Composite fillings

Although not as strong as the white fillings, composite can be used for minor repairs to the teeth, such as minor chips. These are generally used on the front teeth as composite may not survive the stress that would occur if used on the rear ones. Our Bromley dental team are pleased to be able to offer our patients the option of these tooth coloured fillings, enabling them to be able to laugh and smile without showing the word their dark coloured fillings.

If you dislike the appearance of your amalgam filled teeth, why not give Smile Dental Practice a call on 020 8462 2473 to discuss the alternative options.