The materials used in restorations are typically composite resin, dental amalgam, and gold.

Dental amalgam is the end result of mixing approximately equal parts of elemental liquid mercury (43 to 54 percent) and an alloy powder (57 to 46 percent) composed of silver, tin, copper, and sometimes smaller amounts of zinc, palladium or indium.

Those who are not opposed to the use of amalgam point out that it is durable, relatively inexpensive, and easy to use. On average, amalgam last twice as long as resin composites, take less time to place, is tolerant of saliva or blood contamination during placement (unlike composites), and is often about 20-30% less expensive. Consumer Reports has suggested that many who claim dental amalgam is not safe, are “prospecting for disease” and using pseudoscience to scare patients into more lucrative treatment options.

Today, composite resin and dental amalgam are used in the following situations:

  • in individuals of all ages,
  • in stress-bearing areas and in small-to-moderate sized cavities in the posterior teeth,
  • when there is severe destruction of tooth structure and cost is an overriding consideration,
  • as a foundation for cast-metal, metal-ceramic, and ceramic restorations,
  • when patient commitment to personal oral hygiene is poor,
  • when moisture control is problematic with patients, and
  • when the cost is an overriding patient concern.