Do I Need To Replace My Amalgam Fillings?
Amalgam fillings, those silver beauties so many of us have in our mouths, have been dentists’ go-to choice for filling cavities since the early 1900s. In recent years, however, they have come in for some pretty hefty criticism.
Amalgam fillings are made up of approximately equal quantities of mercury and an alloy powder – commonly a mix of palladium, silver and zinc. It’s this mercury content that has everyone, well, gnashing their teeth.
Common thinking is that, over time, the mercury could cause significant health issues. While there is still some debate over this, many people choose to replace their old metal fillings with more modern composites. In addition to being made from benign synthetic materials, these “white” fillings are coloured to match your teeth, making them more aesthetically pleasing than their “tin grin” predecessors.
But apart from the obvious benefit of not having unsightly silver or even black fillings in your mouth, are there any other advantages to replacing your amalgams with composite fillings? And should you be making a dental appointment right now?
Replacing Amalgam Fillings – What The Dentists Say
Most dentists don’t recommend replacing fillings unless there is a legitimate reason to do so. Amalgam fillings do last for many years, but over time, saliva can work its way under them and cause corrosion. Silver fillings also expand and contract, which can cause small cracks in your teeth. These cracks could eventually cause the tooth to fracture, and the filling will fall out. In these instances, you can talk to your dentist about replacing it with a composite filling.
In the past, dentists were hesitant to use composite fillings on back teeth, as they tended not to be as strong as amalgam ones. It is also trickier to keep the area surrounding a back tooth dry, which is essential if a white filling is to bond properly. Modern composite materials are, however, much stronger than earlier versions, so it is possible to use them on molars. How long they will last, however, is dependent on exactly where in your mouth they are, and how heavily you bite down when you chew.
The Advantages Of Composite Fillings
Composite fillings are virtually invisible, making them decidedly more visually pleasing than amalgam fillings, but they have other significant benefits too:
- No waiting – Amalgam fillings usually need a 24-hour waiting period before you can safely eat on them. Composite fillings are UV light cured while you’re in the dentist’s chair. This sets them immediately, so you can eat on them straight away.
- Less Healthy Tooth Removal – With amalgam fillings, some healthy tooth must be removed along with the decayed part so that the filling stays safely in place. “White” fillings are chemically bonded to the cavity, which effectively “splints” the tooth together. This means your dentist only needs to remove the decayed portion of your tooth.
- Stronger teeth – although the amalgam filling by itself is stronger than a composite filling by itself, composites bond to the teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to fracturing. Over time, amalgam fillings can break your teeth.
- Durable – Composite fillings are very durable and can last for up to 15 years. They may discolour slightly over time, however, so it’s worth asking your dentist to check them when you go for your regular check-up.
- No Harmful Materials – Most composite fillings are made from polymers, mixed with fillers such as silica, barium or quartz. These fillers are what give the filling its strength. The result is a hard plastic material that comes in a wide variety of “tooth-coloured” shades, so they can be matched very closely to the natural colour of your teeth.
Amalgam Fillings – Is There A Silver Lining?
There is definitely a reason why amalgam fillings have been around for as long as they have. If you have these silver fillings in your teeth, and they’re not worrying you in any way, there is no reason why you shouldn’t keep them until they actually need replacing.
However, while they have served a purpose over the years being a durable and cost-effective option for many, they are being phased out.
For example, The Minamata Convention on Mercury is concerned with the effect of mercury in all its uses and accordingly, “dental fillings which use mercury amalgam are also regulated under the Convention, and their use must be phased down through a number of measures”
To this end, Shine Dental has made the choice not to make use of amalgam fillings, and we have instead focused on safe, aesthetically pleasing, and cost-effective alternatives.
Hopefully, this has given you something to chew on, but if you’d like any more advice on whether you should replace some, or all, of your amalgam fillings, please call into our clinic for some expert advice.