Dental Fillings

Dental fillings, also known as silver fillings, are made from a combination of metals to create a malleable substance. This substance is then used to fill in the space where tooth decay has been removed. After that, it hardens and provides protection for the treated tooth.

Amalgam fillings have actually been used for almost two centuries. During this time, discussions and controversies about amalgam fillings have been ongoing. Some consider it to be an inferior material, while others question the safety of amalgam.

Why is amalgam still used for fillings when composite is readily available?

  • Cost: Amalgam fillings are considerably less expensive than other types.
  • Availability: Although dentists may recommend composite fillings for prominent teeth, amalgam is more commonly used for larger back teeth.
  • Speed: Amalgam is pliable and easily manipulated, making the filling process relatively fast. This helps people with dental anxiety and children who have difficulty sitting still.

What health concerns are there with mercury?

In large amounts, mercury can be toxic. However, there are low amounts of mercury found in amalgam fillings. Also consider the fact that many foods contain mercury, such as commercial fish.

What is the position of the ADA on the use of amalgam fillings?

The American Dental Association (ADA) acknowledges that a small amount of mercury can be released from amalgam fillings. But they also concluded that the released amount is typically so small that it would not result in any health problems. One exception might be those who are allergic to mercury.

When are composite fillings appropriate?

Composite dental fillings are most commonly used in cases where a regular amalgam filling would negatively impact the appearance of the patient’s smile. Composite more closely matches the color of surrounding teeth.

Some patients also choose to replace their worn or damaged amalgam fillings with composite.

What To Expect 

Here is what you can expect if you receive an amalgam or composite filling:

Amalgam Filling

Your dentist would first administer an anesthetic so that you are comfortable during the placement of the dental filling. They will drill into the tooth, removing all tooth decay and reshaping the inside of the tooth to make room for the filling. They will then place the amalgam filling material into the cavity. It would then harden into a solid dental filling.

Composite Filling

Composite fillings take somewhat longer to place than amalgam fillings. The main reason is that the treated tooth must remain dry and clean during the entire process.

As with amalgam fillings, your dentist would first numb the area around the treated tooth using a local anesthetic. After removing all tooth decay, they will apply a substance to enhance the bonding process. Next, they apply the composite in a series of thin layers. Using a special light, they will harden the material, and finish by smoothing and polishing it.

Your Consultation

If you still have some questions about types of dental fillings, feel free to contact our office at any time to ask questions or schedule a consultation.

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