If you’ve had one or more cavities, then it was most likely filled in with a grey metal amalgam. This grey metal amalgam filling is the silver that can be seen when you throw your head back and enjoy a good laugh or when you open your mouth widely.
Previously, these metal amalgam fillings were the only options available so if you are over the age of 30 and have had a cavity, then your mouth is probably still home to one of the old amalgam fillings. However, with today’s research and advancements in dentistry, some health risks associated with the traditional metal amalgam fillings have been found.
Rather than offer the metal amalgams, an alternative tooth-colored composite filling is available which is not only more visually appealing but also functions better than the traditional metal fillings. They say ‘old is gold,’ however, in the case of fillings, this is certainly not the case.
Not only is the new tooth-colored composite fillings used for all patients who have new cavities, but many individuals with the silver fillings also opt to have their old fillings replaced with composite ones.
If you have an old metal amalgam filling and are debating whether to replace them, let us help you make the decision in favor of replacement with a few good reasons.
Amalgam fillings contain mercury
If you’ve ever heard stories from your parents or grandparents, they may make mention of times when the mercury from a simple thermometer would be removed and given to children to play with. Only later was it discovered that mercury was toxic.
Unfortunately, about 50% of an amalgam filling is made up of mercury, which can potentially be a health risk for some patients. Although there is research being conducted on the safety of amalgams, some patients would feel safer simply replacing their metal amalgams all together.
Silver fillings have a limited lifespan
When the traditional silver fillings are inserted, they are packed into an area of your tooth. Since there isn’t any sort of permanent bonding between the filling and the tooth, the silver fillings will, over time, begin to wear down.
As the filling wears down, it exposes new areas on the tooth which can eventually become home to harmful decay-causing bacteria. If the cavity wears out and the decaying tooth is not detected until the problem worsens, you may require a crown to be placed on your tooth, rather than just replacing the filling.
Your amalgam filling is only expected to last 10 years, so it’s important to have your fillings checked at your routine dental exams to ensure they are still intact. Alternatively, composite fillings are bonded to your teeth, rather than packed in so they are expected to last longer without the fear of tooth decay resulting from worn down fillings.
Composite fillings strengthen your tooth
Composite fillings are designed to fill in the cavity and in order to do this, they bond directly to the tooth. The tooth along with its composite filling becomes one functional unit.
Amalgam fillings are not attached or bonded to the tooth and can become worn down over time. Due to their different characteristics and abilities, amalgam fillings do not form a single unit with the tooth which can be detrimental to the tooth under certain situations.
When a force is applied to a tooth with a filling, the amalgam portion of the tooth remains solid and unbreakable, whereas the tooth gives in to the force. When the force is unevenly distributed between the tooth and the amalgam filling portion, it can cause the tooth to become damaged, cracked, or fractured under the pressure.
Composite fillings can be used to help avoid this risk and allow for even distribution of force among the tooth and its respective filling.
Temperature can change amalgam fillings
Expansion and contraction of metals due to an increase or decrease in temperature is normal. However, it can be problematic when the metal in question is found in your mouth, and even more problematic when it is used to fill in a tooth after a cavity.
An amalgam filling is comprised of about 50% mercury, which is a metal that is used in thermometers and adjusts to the temperature of its surroundings. For example, your amalgam filling will expand when you drink a hot beverage which can cause your tooth to strain and eventually crack or fracture.
The opposite can happen when you eat or drink something cold. Cold beverages or foods can cause your amalgam filling to contract and this can create gaps between the tooth and the filling. Your teeth, although strong, can only handle these contractions and expansions to a certain extent and if they continue over a long period of time, your teeth will weaken.
Composite fillings blend in with your teeth
For much the same reason that individuals opt to get tooth-colored or Invisalign braces, composite fillings are tooth-colored and can blend in easily with the rest of your teeth.
When you smile or open your mouth wide to let out a good laugh, the silver amalgam fillings are clearly visible in your mouth, whereas the composite fillings are virtually invisible.
If you’ve had many cavities, each filled in using an amalgam filling, you may be a little shy to let people see them; in this case, composite fillings may be just the solution for you.
Your health is precious, and so are your teeth. Mercury-containing dental amalgam fillings were, at one point, the only option available to serve as fillings for teeth with cavities. This has changed, and new composite fillings have replaced the old.
Although research is ongoing, mercury vapor released from amalgam fillings can be harmful to your health, especially over an extended period of time. If you want peace of mind that your overall health and the health and structure of your teeth will remain intact, then replacing your amalgam fillings with composite ones, is the choice for you.
Whether you choose to undergo replacement for aesthetic purposes, to protect your health, or to enjoy greater comfort, replacing your old amalgam fillings with composite ones, is a step towards ensuring all three.
If you want to remove those random silver spots scattered in your mouth, Roots on Whyte Dental can help you accomplish just that.
To learn more about composite fillings and why you should replace amalgam fillings, call us Paddington Dentistry NSW (02) 9360 6245