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Cavity fillings: Silver or white?

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ATLANTA -

For years, when it came to cavities, the only choice was silver. But times have changed, and now many dentists are using a material that looks just like your natural teeth.  So which works better?

A lot of things play in to which type of filling will work the best for you.

For some people, cost is the real driver. Others want durability. Many of us just want a smile that looks good.

Composite fillings are so popular at Inman Park Dentistry that Dr. Alex Rodriguez doesn't even do silver fillings anymore.

"People don't want it.  They want white fillings and they want white fillings that last," Rodriguez said.

Silver fillings are cheaper and overall longer-lasting than composite, but Rodriguez says the most important thing is how you take care of your teeth.

 I could put a filling into somebody today, and if they're not doing their job, brushing and flossing, it doesn't matter if its silver or composite, they can come back in six months and have a new cavity around it," said Rodriguez said.

The size of the cavity also matters.

"The bigger the filling is, regardless again whether it's silver or composite, it's just not going to last that long. That's when we start saying, ‘It needs a crown,'" said Rodriguez. "They're the longest lasting, strongest thing we can do to a tooth."

Silver amalgam fillings are controversial because they contain mercury -- a neurotoxin -- along with silver, tin, copper and zinc.

The American Dental Association says there's no proof that silver amalgam fillings cause harm, but about 1 percent of people are allergic to the mercury in fillings.

If your cavity is in your front teeth, Rodriguez says go white.

"For back teeth, especially if it's a really big filling, silver fillings are a great way to go," said Rodriguez. "They work very well, despite all the controversy about them, they work very well. They last a long time."

Composite fillings can cost twice as much as silver fillings.

If you want to go with a composite filling, check with your dental plan. Most insurance providers cover the cost of a silver filling and the patient makes up the difference in cost

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