Mercury, Amalgam and Composite – Dental Fillings 101

dental fillingsIf you are old enough, you may remember a visit to the dentist ending with a “prize” – a little, silver glob of mercury being placed in your hand to take home and play with. Yikes. Thankfully, times have changed.

What is amalgam?

Amalgam is a combination of metals that has been the most popular and effective dental filling material for the last 150 years. It consists of a combination of metals, including silver, mercury, tin and copper. Fillings made with amalgam are also known as silver fillings. Over the years, concerns have been raised about the use of amalgam – precisely because it contains mercury.

Why is mercury used in amalgam?

Mercury helps make the filling material pliable. When mercury is mixed with an alloy powder, it creates a soft compound which can be pressed into the tooth. It hardens quickly and can withstand the forces of biting and chewing. There has been recent controversy over amalgam and the amount of mercury that may be absorbed into the body. The research is complex and controversial. Sophisticated tests have found that very small amounts of mercury in the form of vapor may be released over time as the amalgam filling ages.

Should amalgam fillings be replaced?

Replacing your amalgam fillings is a decision only you can make, in tandem with your dentist. If you are concerned about your old amalgam fillings, call our offices for a consultation.

What are composite resins?

Tooth-colored materials, called composite resins, can now be used as dental fillings and are a great option if you prefer a more natural look. Composite resin fillings are used more often than gold or amalgam, due in part to cosmetic concerns, as many people desire a bright, white smile.

Composite resins provide durability and resistance to fracture and can also withstand the pressure of biting and chewing. They may be used on the back or front teeth but they do take a bit longer to place than amalgam fillings.

If you prefer your relationship to Mercury be merely astronomical in nature, call to schedule an appointment to discuss our approach to natural, composite fillings: (304) 845-2480.

Posted in: Dental Fillings

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