According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, an estimated 24 million adult Americans are totally without teeth. Almost half of the adult population are missing at least one tooth.
There are alternative, natural-looking materials to conventional silver-colored fillings – materials made from porcelain and composite resins, which are colored to match natural tooth enamel. Unfortunately, few materials can match the strength and durability of 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 mixture of resins and fine particles designed to mimic the color of natural teeth. While not as strong 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 combination of various materials, including ground glass and acrylic resins. Ionomers are typically used for fillings near the gum line or tooth root, where biting pressure is not a factor. They are more fragile than dental amalgam, however. A small amount of 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. Candidates for porcelain fillings are typically crowns, veneers and onlays and inlays. Unlike ionomers, porcelain fillings are more durable but can become fractured if exposed to prolonged biting pressures.