Dental Amalgam Fillings
Amalgam Fillings Are Durable, Reliable Options For Treating Cavities
Amalgam fillings look like they’re made from silver, so you’ll occasionally hear them referred to as silver fillings. That’s not exactly correct though, as amalgam fillings are a combination of silver, tin, copper and mercury. Together, these materials make for an extremely durable and cost-effective filling option that are ideal for treating tooth decay due to cavities.
Given their efficacy, our practice regularly recommends amalgam fillings for our patients. For many, they are a viable (even superior) option to other filling materials.
How Are Amalgam Fillings Used For In Dental Procedures?
Like other types of fillings, amalgam fillings are used to seal cavities and protect against further damage due to those cavities. With their excellent durability, though, amalgam fillings are better suited for larger cavities where severe tooth decay is present. Amalgam is also a better option for cavities that emerge in the back teeth, where chewing forces are strong enough to damage other materials.
Because amalgam fillings are made from metals, they are not colored like natural teeth and stand out a bit when the patient’s mouth is open. This is another reason why amalgam fillings are typically used in the back teeth, where aesthetics are not as important.
A Few Advantages Of Choosing Amalgam Fillings For Cavities
Amalgam fillings have been used for nearly 200 years to repair damage due to cavities and decay. It’s fair to say, then, that amalgam is a proven material for dental procedures. Here’s a few reasons why:
- They’re cost effective – Amalgam fillings are less expensive than other filling options, so they’re easier to budget for. Further, more insurance plans cover amalgam fillings, compared to composite fillings, and this can also have a big impact on pricing.
- They’re extremely durable and long lasting – If proper oral hygiene is observed, amalgam fillings are expected to last for at least a decade and up to 15 years. While composite fillings have caught up a bit, multiple studies confirm that amalgams still last several years longer than current generation composites.
- They’re quick to place – Amalgam fillings can be placed in under an hour, and as little as 20 minutes in some cases. Composite fillings take a bit longer to install (though they can still be placed during a single visit), and this could be an issue for anxious patients or those who have trouble sitting still for an extended period of time.
The primary drawback with amalgam fillings is their appearance. They are noticeable when the patient opens their mouth, which isn’t the case with colored composite materials. If aesthetics aren’t a concern, though, there’s a lot to like about amalgams.
Are Amalgam Fillings Safe?
While amalgam fillings contain a small amount of mercury, it is important to note that the mercury used in amalgam fillings (elemental mercury) is not the same type of mercury that’s considered dangerous in certain foods, like seafood (methylmercury).
Many studies backed by some of the world’s leading scientific and medical associations confirm that amalgam fillings are safe for the vast majority of patients. This includes studies performed or supported by the American Dental Association, World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, Autism Society of America, The Alzheimer’s Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Extensive research has shown that amalgam fillings do not raise blood mercury levels to a concerning degree, but if you have any questions about them, our team will be happy to discuss whether amalgams or other types of fillings are right for you.
How Are Amalgam Fillings Placed?
Amalgam fillings are quick to place and can be handled during a single visit to the dentist. It’s a standard process for practitioners to handle, and it looks like this:
- Initial consultation and planning – If cavities are spotted during examination, we’ll go over your options for how to treat them. Following consultation, if amalgam fillings are the right choice, we’ll set up a future appointment to place them.
- The treatment area is numbed – At your next appointment, we’ll start the procedure by numbing the tooth that’s receiving the filling. Once the area is numb and the patient is comfortable, we’ll proceed.
- Any decay is removed and the tooth is prepared for the filling – The tooth must be cleaned and shaped before it can take a filling. To do so, the dentist will first remove any decay and apply a special wash to kill off any bacteria. Once cleaned, the dentist will shape the tooth so that the filling will fit perfectly.
- The filling is prepared and shaped for the cavity – An amalgam filling starts as a soft putty. It’s applied to the tooth in this way and gently pushed into the cavity. There, it rapidly hardens until it takes on its final shape.
Amalgam fillings are safe, effective and inexpensive, so they’re a popular choice for many patients. If you’re not sure if amalgam fillings are the right choice for you, the Meyerland Family Dentistry team can help you decide. Following a detailed examination of your teeth, we can outline treatment options and recommend amalgam fillings if necessary.
If they are necessary, our team can place the fillings quickly. Once placed, amalgam fillings will provide long term stability and comfort for the patient. During follow-ups, our team will ensure your filling remains in place and in good condition.