Porcelain vs. Amalgam Fillings

Although metal amalgam fillings have been used for more than 150 years, they are being replaced by tooth colored alternatives like porcelain. If you have to get fillings, why not get some that look and feel like real teeth, and do not dim your bright smile?

At the Colonial Dental Clinic, we make your porcelain restorations in our office using the highly advanced CEREC production system. Using digital photography, your porcelain fillings can be designed, milled, and permanently positioned in one visit, not two as are required by most dentists.

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is one of the most common problems in children and adults. It is the work of bacteria in the mouth when they are allowed to multiply and spread into tiny crevices, where they excrete acidic debris. Acidity and tooth enamel are not good partners. Acid substances eat into enamel, creating holes in it. If nothing is done, the bacteria multiply and the holes get larger until you are brought up short by a painful toothache.

Anything in the mouth that is acidic will gradually destroy tooth enamel. That is why sugary foods and drinks are discouraged, because sugar is acidic. All carbohydrates, meats, beans, and nuts (except almonds) become acidic as they decompose or are digested. When these food particles are left on the teeth for days or weeks, they do two destructive things:

  • They provide food for bacteria which then multiply and excrete more acidic debris
  • They become acidic and eat into enamel

The only treatment for tooth decay is to remove the decayed portions of the tooth and fill the hole with metal amalgam, white dental composite, or dental porcelain.

Metal Amalgam

Dental amalgam is made of approximately 50% mercury, plus a mixture of silver, tin, copper, and zinc. It is durable and gentle on the opposing tooth when chewing.

However, it has a definite downside.

  • The metals in the amalgam expand and contract with the hot and cold substances you put in your mouth. This gradually weakens the tooth.
  • They are not bonded to the tooth. They are tightly wedged into the cavity and remain in place because the cavity is shaped to hold them. That means healthy tooth tissue is removed for shaping the cavity.
  • They exert outward pressure on the tooth’s periphery. This eventually cracks the tooth. In contrast, porcelain fillings exert inward pressure, being bonded to the tooth, which holds the tooth together.


Dental porcelain is quickly becoming the new standard for dental fillings. Porcelain is white and semi-translucent like tooth enamel, and has the same pearly sheen. Your filling will be made from a shade of porcelain matched to your natural teeth. Most cosmetic dentists require two appointments for a porcelain filling, but our CEREC chairside system enables us to do it in one visit.

We use a digital camera and our CEREC system to plan and design your porcelain filling. You can see on the chairside computer monitor what your dentist is doing. The CEREC porcelain mill — here in our Glenview office — makes the filling while you relax in the next room, and your cosmetic dentist can immediately place it, test its fit, and permanently bond it in position. You’ll be leaving our office with a repaired tooth that looks as if it had never had a problem in its life.

Please call or email us if you would like to know more about porcelain — whether fillingsveneers, or crowns. We serve the entire Chicago area. You can have all your old metal fillings replaced if you’d like to transform your smile.