“Dental amalgam” is special mixture of materials used in dentistry to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. This is the official dental term for a “filling”. Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions regarding dental amalgams, or “fillings”.
Are dental amalgams safe?
Yes. Dental amalgam has been used in tooth restorations worldwide for more than 100 years. Studies have failed to find any link between amalgam restorations and any medical disorder. Amalgam continues to be a safe restorative material for dental patients.
Is it possible to have an allergic reaction to amalgam?
Only a very small number of people are allergic to amalgam fillings. Fewer than 100 cases have ever been reported. In these rare instances, mercury may trigger an allergic response. Symptoms of amalgam allergy are very similar to a typical skin allergy.
Often patients who are truly allergic to amalgam have a medical or family history of allergies to metals. If there is a confirmed allergy, another restorative material will be used.
Is it true that dental amalgams have been banned in other countries?
No. Erroneous news reporting has confused restrictions in a few countries with outright bans. Dentists around the world are using dental amalgams (silver fillings) to restore teeth that have dental decay. Studies have not shown a link between dental amalgam and any medical disorder.
Is there a filling material that matches tooth color?
Yes. Composite resins are tooth-colored, plastic materials (made of glass and resin) that are used both as fillings and to repair defects in the teeth. Because they are tooth-colored, it is difficult to distinguish them from natural teeth. Composites are often used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important. They can be used on the back teeth as well depending on the location and extent of the tooth decay. Composite resins are usually more costly than amalgam fillings.
If my tooth doesn’t hurt and my filling is still in place, why would the filling need to be replaced?
Constant pressure from chewing, grinding or clenching can cause dental fillings, or restorations, to wear away, chip or crack. Although you may not be able to tell that your filling is wearing down, your dentist can identify weaknesses in your restorations during a regular check-up
If the seal between the tooth enamel and the restoration breaks down, food particles and decay-causing bacteria can work their way under the restoration. You then run the risk of developing additional decay in that tooth. Decay that is left untreated can progress to infect the dental pulp and may cause an abscess.
If the restoration is large or the recurrent decay is extensive, there may not be enough tooth structure remaining to support a replacement filling. In these cases, your dentist may need to replace the filling with a crown.
Call Dr. Stein today if you are in need of a tooth filling!