What is Dental Amalgam (Silver Filling)? Most people recognize dental amalgams as silver fillings. Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper. Mercury, which makes up about 50 percent of the mixture, is used to bind the metals together and to provide a strong, hard, durable filling. After years of research, mercury has been found to be the only element that will bind these metals together in such a way that can be easily manipulated into a tooth cavity.
Is mercury in dental amalgam safe?
Mercury in dental amalgam is not poisonous. When mercury is combined with other materials in a dental amalgam, its chemical nature changes, therefore, it is essentially harmless. The amount of mercury released in the mouth under the pressure of chewing and grinding is extremely small and no cause for alarm. In fact, it is less than what patients are exposed to in food, air and water.
What about patients allergic to mercury?
The incidence of allergy to mercury is far less than one percent of the population. People suspected of having an allergy to mercury should be tested by qualified physicians, and, when necessary, seek appropriate alternatives. Should patients have amalgam removed? No. To do so, without need, would result in unnecessary expense and potential injury to teeth.
What is a Composite Resin (White Filling)?
A composite filling is a tooth-colored plastic and glass mixture used to restore decayed teeth. Composites are also used for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth.
How is a composite placed?
Following preparation, the dentist places the composite in layers, typically using a light specialized to harden each layer. When the process is finished, the dentist will shape the composite to fit the tooth and then polishes the composite to prevent staining and early wear.
What are the advantages of composites?
Aesthetics are the main advantage of composites, since dentists can blend shades to create a color nearly identical to that of the actual tooth. Composites bond to the tooth to support the remaining tooth structure, which helps to prevent breakage and insulate the tooth from excessive temperature changes.
What are the disadvantages?
After receiving a composite, a patient may experience postoperative sensitivity. Also, the shade of the composite can change slightly if the patient drinks tea, coffee or other staining foods. The dentist can put a clear plastic coating over the composite to prevent the color from changing if a patient is particularly concerned about tooth color. Composites tend to wear out sooner than silver fillings in larger cavities, although they hold up as well in small cavities.