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Are Silver Fillings Redundant Now?

A few years ago, tooth fillings were limited to gold and silver, but now there are many more options including plastic, composite, and even glass monomer. Gold and silver stand out visibly while the other three blends easily with your natural teeth.


Is there still a place for metal fillings in modern dentistry?


Silver fillings are not made of pure silver. They’re actually a combination of many trace metals such as mercury, copper, tin, indium, zinc, palladium, and yes, silver. In technical terms, it’s referred to as an amalgam, and it’s applied while wet, unlike gold or porcelain fillings.

The reason dentists have preferred silver fillings over the past century is tied to the benefits of amalgam. It’s not only relatively cheap, it’s also easy to apply. The silver was fused with mercury because mercury made it more pliable. This made it easy to mix it and mould it onto the tooth, covering up all the damage and filling every gap and crevice.

Mercury is also a quick-drying metal, so it had the dual advantage of setting almost instantly so that the patient could go on their way. The combination of metals produced a solid biting surface and moulded well into the mouth, making it the perfect replacement for decayed tooth matter.

Compared to other kinds of fillings, an amalgam is still a good option. It’s more affordable than gold or porcelain, has more staying power than plastic or composite, and is more durable than glass ionomer. It’s also unlikely to trigger allergies and can be installed in a single visit.

Amalgam is commonly used for teeth in the back of the mouth because they get heavy use due to chewing and grinding. It’s also preferred regarding location, because silver feelings get darker with time, making them more distinct. If they’re at the back of the mouth, it’s not a problem. In the canines or incisors, they might stand out in an unattractive way.

As time has gone by, the public has become wary of amalgam, because it has mercury in it. It makes about half the amalgam by content levels, which sounds like a lot. However, the FDA and other medical bodies have carried out multiple tests, and they are sure the amount of mercury in silver fillings is harmless.



Despite these reassurances, the issue of mercury in amalgam is a tricky one. As a comparison, patients are reminded that they are probably exposed to a lot more mercury than what exists in a filling. During their everyday activities, the average person consumes mercury in their food and inhales it from the air. The mercury in a filling is a trace portion compared to all that.

Dentists have to be more careful when they handle amalgam because although the amount in every patient is very small, dentists deal with multiple patients, so the cumulative mercury exposure for them is higher and they need to take additional precautions to avoid adverse effects.

Still, it’s not advisable for patients under the age of six, though they’re unlikely to get any filling, so that’s not a major issue. For expectant mothers, amalgam fillings on their own are not harmful, but of course, anything that goes into the mother goes into the baby. In general, pregnant patients are advised to avoid dental procedures including x-rays until after the baby is born. That said, they need to take good care of their teeth since gum disease can affect their babies.

With all the talk about mercury, some patients worry that they should have their silver fillings removed and replaced with something else. Because amalgam is installed in liquid form and solidifies inside your cavity, it bonds securely to the surface of the tooth. Removing it would actually do more damage because it would uproot sections of the tooth with it. It may even end up releasing some of the bonded mercury.

If you’re unhappy with your amalgam, wait until it has cracked or worn away enough to warrant organic extraction. Your dentist can then remove it and give you a filling you’re more comfortable with.

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