Once upon a time, almost everyone that needed a cavity filled got an amalgam filling—the common silver-colored kind of filling, which is made of a combination of silver, mercury, tin, copper, and other metals. Millions of people across the country now have amalgam fillings in their teeth, but in recent years, some have begun to wonder how safe it really is to have mercury in your teeth.
Currently, there is no consensus about the safety of amalgam fillings. While it is true that mercury vapor is released from amalgam, the amount of vapor released from fillings is safely below the FDA-accepted 0.4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. The American Dental Association continues to support the use of amalgam fillings.
Still, some wonder whether it would be wise to replace their amalgam fillings with composite resin fillings—a popular choice in recent years. Composite resin doesn’t contain mercury, and it is white rather than silver, so it blends in with your teeth. Generally, replacing silver amalgam fillings with white composite fillings is not necessary or recommended. However, in some cases there may be serious cosmetic problems with amalgam fillings, or the amalgam fillings may be badly made or damaged. In these situations, the filling should be replaced.
Besides the cosmetic improvement, composite fillings offer several advantages over amalgam fillings, such as the following.
- Composite fillings are bonded to the tooth, which reinforces the remaining structure of the tooth and doesn’t leave room for foreign material to wedge itself between the tooth and filling and create cracks. This strengthens the weakened tooth.
- Composite fillings have smooth, bonded edges, which leave fewer nooks and crannies for plaque to accumulate and cause further tooth decay.
- Composite fillings conserve the tooth structure more effectively. Less of the original tooth is removed to create space for the filling.
- Composite fillings are easily repaired. Chips in the filling can be repaired by adding more composite material.
- Composite fillings seal and protect the inner layer of the tooth, known as the dentin, from bacteria that causes decay.
- Composite fillings last longer than amalgam fillings.
If you’re concerned about the state or appearance of your existing fillings, schedule a consultation with Dental Partners of Boston, the practice that’s at the forefront of cosmetic dentistry in Boston. One of our experienced dentists will evaluate your situation and discuss the possibility of replacing your amalgam fillings.