When a tooth has decay, we will remove the infection and then seal the tooth with a filling. Fillings take only one dental visit to place. With the recent advancements in dental filling materials, non-metal fillings (composite resins) now offer many advantages over the metal amalgam fillings:
- Composite resin fillings are dyed to match the color of your tooth, so they look completely natural.
- Composite resin fillings preserve as much healthy tooth structure as possible.
- With proper dental care, composite resin fillings can last for many years.
Many people still have silver/mercury fillings in their mouths from years past. These fillings are not particularly pleasing to the eye, and we know that by unavoidable design, silver/mercury fillings ultimately result in a weaker tooth structure. Porcelain inlays and Tooth Colored Restorations (onlays) create fillings that are not only beautiful (or unnoticeable) but also add strength to weakened teeth. These restorations are esthetically pleasing and very strong thanks to new bonding technologies.
Disadvantages of Silver fillings:
Silver fillings have many drawbacks. The edges of the silver filling can wear down, become weak or break. This results in the tooth not being protected and lets cavities get started once again. With age, the metal of a silver filling expands, contracts, and can split.
Silver fillings can corrode, leak and cause stains on your teeth and gums.
Fortunately, silver fillings can safely be replaced with Tooth-Colored Restorations.
Advantages of Tooth-Colored Restorations
There are many advantages to tooth-colored restorations. Resin onlays are bonded to the teeth creating a tight, superior fit to the natural tooth. Such restorations can be used in instances where much of the tooth structure has been lost. The tooth remains intact and stronger.
Since the resin used in tooth-colored restorations contain fluoride this can help prevent decay. The resin wears like natural teeth and does not require placement at the gum line, which is healthier for your gums!
The result is a beautiful smile!
Replacing Silver Fillings with a Tooth Colored Restoration
You can have your silver fillings replaced with tooth-colored restorations (onlays). This process requires two appointments.
Your First Appointment:
- The old filling is removed along with any additional decay.
- An impression is made of your teeth. A model of your teeth is made and sent to the lab.
- A temporary onlay is placed on the tooth.
At the Lab: A resin is carefully placed into the model of your teeth. It is then designed to look natural.
Your Second Appointment:
- The temporary onlay is removed.
- A conditioning gel is placed on your tooth to prepare it for the new onlay.
- Bonding cement is placed on the tooth and a high intensity light bonds the resin to the tooth.
- The tooth is then polished.
Your teeth are restored to a natural look and feel, they are stronger and the tooth is protected!
Dental amalgam is a filling material that has been used by dentists for over 150 years. A mixture of metals that typically includes silver, copper and tin, dental amalgam fillings (commonly referred to as “silver fillings”) also contain mercury, which has raised safety concerns among patients from time to time.
In response to those concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), American Dental Association (ADA) and other organizations have conducted numerous studies over several decades and have repeatedly found that the small amount of mercury released during placement and removal of amalgam fillings does not cause adverse health effects.
Amalgam fillings remain a safe, cost-effective and durable choice when it comes to the restoration of decayed teeth.
Frequently Asked Questions about Amalgam Fillings
Why is amalgam still used to fill teeth when composite materials are available?
While composite (or “tooth colored”) fillings are more durable than ever thanks to advancements in technology, there are still many cases where amalgam fillings perform better (and longer). This is often the case with teeth that are naturally subjected to extensive chewing force, such as molars. Mercury is an important part of the amalgam mixture as it contains unique elements that allow it to be manipulated with ease during placement and then harden quickly after. In addition to the benefits of longevity, amalgam fillings are also more affordable than composites.
What concerns are there with mercury and its effects on the body?
Mercury is a naturally occurring metal and one that we are exposed to in small amounts through water, air and food throughout our lives. Excessive exposure to mercury can negatively affect the brain and kidneys – however, it is important to understand that amalgam fillings do not cause dangerous levels of mercury exposure. Numerous scientific studies and thoughtful research have led the FDA to stand behind its position: amalgam fillings are a safe and effective restoration method for patients over 6 years of age.
What is the ADA’s position regarding the use of silver amalgam fillings?
A thorough summary of evidence ranging from 2004-2010 led the ADA to reaffirm its position that amalgam is a valuable and safe choice for patients.
When is it appropriate to use composite fillings?
Composite fillings are typically made of a resin and glass mixture, tinted to the color of your tooth, and commonly referred to as “white” or “tooth-colored” fillings. They serve an important purpose for teeth that are visible when smiling, providing an aesthetic benefit not afforded by silver fillings. While resin composite fillings undoubtedly look better than amalgam ones, they are generally considered to be less durable, and therefore may not be ideal for teeth that are subject to extreme chewing and biting forces. It is worth noting, however, that composite materials continue to benefit from technological advancements, contributing to enhanced durability. The ADA supports composite materials in small or mid-size fillings on teeth that are exposed to moderate pressure from chewing, and acknowledges that they are a good choice for a more natural-looking filling.
The bottom line?
The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.
If you still have concerns about amalgam fillings, please don’t hesitate to call our office! It is important to us that you fully understand all available options when it comes to your oral health.