General Treatments: Silver Fillings
Silver fillings are an inexpensive and outdated way to restore a small amount of tooth decay. Please note: modern dental technology has made it possible to avoid the use of mercury fillings entirely. Dr. Miller has elected not to place mercury silver fillings and instead focus his care on more effective, state-of-the-art tooth colored restorations.
The following information explains why this restoration was commonly used in the past and why we prefer not to use them today.
A small area of decay on a back tooth.
A silver (or amalgam) filling is a mixture of approximately 50% silver/tin alloy and 50% mercury. After tooth decay is removed and cleaned, this gray colored material is packed into the tooth and shaped.
Their biggest advantage is that they are quickly and easily placed, making them relatively inexpensive.
Traditional mercury fillings turn teeth dark and gray, age the appearance of your smile, and often weaken the teeth they were meant to protect. Mercury silver fillings do not bond to the tooth structure. This requires the dentist to wedge the filling into the tooth to keep it from falling out. However, creating this wedge effect requires the removal of excessive amounts of healthy tooth structure—weakening the tooth and predisposing it to cracks and fracture.
The lack of a bond between the filling and the tooth permits bacteria to leak underneath the filling. This creates decay that is often not detected until the tooth has been further damaged.
By volume, amalgam fillings contain over 50% mercury—one of the most toxic substances on earth. Just like in a thermometer, the mercury part of the filling expands and contracts. These expansion and contraction cycles wedge the tooth apart. Eventually the tooth will fatigue, crack and split. Repairing a cracked tooth usually requires either a root canal and/or a crown.
Mercury amalgam technology is ancient by modern medical standards. Mercury amalgam was standardized for manufacture in 1895—over 100 years ago, and dentists have been using it to fill teeth for at least 160 years.
Composite fillings in contrast to mercury fillings are the modern, adhesive, cosmetic, mercury-free alternative. These esthetic restorations are strongly bonded to the tooth using a state-of-the-art technique that immediately binds the material to the surrounding tooth atructure. Using these advanced materials and techniques can restore the original strength and beauty of the tooth.