There are alternative, natural-looking dental materials to conventional amalgams made from porcelain and composite resins, which are colored to match natural tooth enamel. Unfortunately, few materials can match the strength and durability of a dental amalgam and such, may need more frequent replacement. Common amalgam alternatives include:
- Composite fillings -- As stated, composite fillings are just what the name implies: a mix of resins and ultra fine particles designed to mimic the color of natural teeth. While not as strong and durable as dental amalgam, composite fillings provide a pleasing aesthetic alternative. Sometimes composite resins need to be cemented, or bonded to a tooth to allow for better adhesion.
- Ionomers -- Like composite resins, these materials are tooth-colored. Ionomers are made from a mixture of various materials, including ground glass and acrylic resins. Ionomers are typically used for fillings around the gum line or tooth root, where biting pressure is not a factor. They are more fragile than dental amalgam, however. Fluoride is released by these compounds in order to facilitate strengthened enamel in the affected area.
- Porcelain (ceramic) -- This material is usually a combination of porcelain, glass powder, and ceramic. Porcelain fillings are typically crowns, veneers and onlays and inlays. Unlike ionomers, porcelain fillings are much more durable but can become fractured if exposed to prolonged biting pressures and excessive shearing forces.