In todAy's world, patients want their dental treatment to not only work, but they also want things to loog good. Teeth have been filled for a long time using gold or silver metal alloys.
Today we have he option of using a tooth colored "composite" material that is based on plastic resin technology. These materials are bonded (stuck) to the tooth. An advantage of bonding is that we can often restore teeth with bonding that would have been very difficult, or impossible using the old silver alloys. Another advantage is the ability of this material to be utilized in more conservitave cavity preps. Silver fillings require more aggressive drilling on the tooth, and thus put the tooth at more risk for problems related to excessive tooth removal. Some white fillings also release fluoride into the tooth.
You may notice that I didn't really talk about the look of the material or the mercury levels associated with the old silver fillings. First off, the primary goal of any restoration is to function. Composite technology has improved greatly over the past few years and the results are very good. While they look good, they are also functioning very well now. Silver fillings are still conidered the standard for direct filling back teeth, but composites are showing very impressive results.As for the merucry in silver fillings, research has repeatedly shown mercury levels to be safe in these silver fillings. The use of the silver-mercury alloy has been endorsed by the U.S. Government and the American Dental Association based on scientific data. I have silver fillings in my mouth and I don't view the mercury issue as a reason to avoid silver. I just feel that most often, composite fillings are the best restoration for the situation, regardless of the esthetic result.