Over the past 40 years, many advances have been made in the materials and techniques used to fill cavities and repair decayed teeth. When fillings were first introduced, they were all made of amalgam, a metal mixture containing mercury. These fillings, which are still used today, are not desirable for a variety of reasons: they are prone to cracking over time, very noticeable – often turning black with age, and contain hazardous mercury. For all of these reasons, dental filling upgrades that use metal-free materials are more popular than ever.
Aside from the reasons listed above, composite resin and porcelain filling upgrades offer many benefits over amalgam. When you upgrade your metal fillings to composite resin or porcelain they are:
- Custom made to create a better seal over your teeth
- Stronger and harden much more quickly than amalgam
- Match the natural color and sheen of your teeth
- More stable and don’t expand/contract in extreme hot and cold temperatures- which can cause your teeth to be sensitive and weaken over time
Which one is right for you?
Each tooth is different. Dr. Nelson will evaluate the restoration type that is best suited for tooth position, functionality and durability.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I replace old fillings that can’t be seen when I smile?
Amalgam fillings are certainly very visible because of being such a different color and texture from tooth enamel. Tooth-colored composite fillings blend in much better. But appearance isn’t the only reason to replace them. As they age, amalgam fillings tend to shrink. They aren’t bonded to the tooth they just packed in tightly to fill in the space. So if they shrink enough, they can loosen and sometimes fall out. They also expand with heat, which can slowly weaken the tooth.
Has it been proven that mercury in fillings is harmful?
No, it’s controversial and still being debated. The FDA stated in September, 2006 that it stands by its previous decision that mercury in dental fillings isn’t harmful unless you’re allergic to mercury. But several consumer groups dispute this conclusion.
What are amalgam fillings made of?
They’re a mix of silver, copper, tin and mercury, with mercury making up about 50% of their weight. That doesn’t mean they’re 50% mercury though, because mercury is heavy.
How can mercury in your filling hurt the rest of you?
As we continue on with our daily chewing, teeth brushing, and perhaps teeth grinding, the mercury in the filling very slowly gives off mercury vapor, which is absorbed by our soft mouth tissue and builds up in the body.
Many studies have been done worldwide to discover where in the body it resides, and have found it in the brain, adrenal glands, and breast milk, to give just a few examples. Some studies have connected it with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis.
Despite the many studies, agreement hasn’t yet been established as to exactly how mercury from fillings does hurt us, or even whether in fact it does.
What can fillings be made of besides amalgam?
They can be made of composite resin, which comes in a number of tooth shades, and is like putty in consistency. They are bonded in place to create a better fit for your tooth than the metal. Or, a better alternative is porcelain.
What’s the difference in procedures for porcelain and plastic fillings?
Composite resin fillings are made in the mouth, by placing a thick putty into your tooth’s cavity and “curing” it with a blue light. Porcelain fillings are fabricated in a dental laboratory, this is why they are so durable and long lasting, making them a favorite of people who don’t want to go to the dentist!
What would be the ideal reason for choosing plastic fillings?
Plastic fillings are best when kept small or where the tooth is not biting against the opposing tooth. When used for large restorations, they can have a relatively short life span.
What would be the ideal reason for choosing porcelain fillings?
If you want a filling that fits perfectly and wears like original enamel without the worry of early breakdowns, porcelain is the choice.