Can you believe that those silver-coloured fillings called ‘amalgam’ have been around since 1812? Yep, they were created by a British chemist more than 200 years ago!
Amalgam is a very specific mixture of metals. It consists of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy of silver, tin, and copper. They bind together to form a putty, which quickly sets. After being positioned in the tooth hole, it sets to form a strong filling.
These days, many clients request to have their old silver amalgam fillings replaced with white fillings, mainly for aesthetic reasons but sometimes for a perceived health risk.
No, there is no safety issue.
The issue that concerns many people is the health risk of leaking mercury from the silver fillings. However, the mercury of the amalgam is bound together to the tin and copper, so once it’s set, there’s no liquid mercury present anymore.
At Taree Dental Care we see hundreds of amalgam fillings every week. Many of them have been in mouths for 10 or 20 years.
Rest assured, amalgam doesn’t pose a health risk. It’s safe for adults, as well as children who are six and over. The Australian Dental Association continues to support the use of amalgam fillings. However, they suggest minimising their use in pregnant or breastfeeding women, by children under 6, and by people with kidney disease.
Rest assured the weight of evidence doesn’t establish any association between amalgam and any adverse health effects.
If the old fillings are in good condition with no decay beneath them, we do not generally recommend their removal just for the sake of it.
There are a number of reasons why amalgam fillings are not used anymore.
White fillings are definitely more aesthetically appealing. It’s not very attractive to have silver fillings in your teeth, particularly if they show when you smile.
With advancements in technology, these days dentists have more aesthetic materials on offer. Composite resin and porcelain last just as long as amalgam if done properly.
If a client wishes to replace the old silver filling for aesthetic reasons – particularly when it’s visible in a smile – then we are very happy to help with a new ‘tooth-coloured’ filling.
Sometimes the old silver fillings start to break down as they come to the end of their longevity. This simply means that the interface between the filling and the tooth is starting to separate. If there are gaps occurring, this allows bacteria to get into that space and create a potential cavity.
So please don’t panic, it’s not the mercury that’s leaking — it’s just the fillings breaking down.
There’s no real urgency in getting the old amalgam’s filling replaced unless the silver filling is not doing the job it was designed to do.
Most importantly, rest assured that you’re not going to be poisoned by the old style filling.
So the take-home message here is that the best filling is no filling at all! Just remember daily brushing, flossing and practice good oral hygiene!
If you are concerned in any way about your amalgam fillings, or your teeth and gums in general, just call our caring dental team at Taree Dental Care on 6550 0960 or drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org. 👍
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