There are two main filling materials available to dentists, namely composites and amalgam.
A composite resin is a tooth-colored plastic mixture filled with glass (silicon dioxide). Composites are not only used to restore decayed areas, but are also used for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth.
There main advantages are:
The disadvantage of composite resin is that, on the front teeth, it does have to be replaced after several years due to colour changes. The colour changes occur from coffee, tea, red wine or smoking.
Most people recognize dental amalgams as silver fillings. Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury, and an alloy of silver, tin and copper. Mercury makes up about 45-50 percent of the compound. Mercury is used to bind the metals together and to provide a strong, hard durable filling. After years of research, mercury has been found to be the only element that will bind these metals together in such a way that can be easily manipulated into a tooth cavity.
Why do dentists use dental amalgams?
Dental amalgam has withstood the test of time, which is why it is still in use. It has a 150-year proven track record and is still one of the safest, durable and least expensive materials to a fill a cavity. It is estimated that more than 1 billion amalgam restorations (fillings) are placed annually.
One property of amalgam which is causing particular problems nowadays, is their failure to bond to tooth structure. This over the years, leads to microfractures and cracks in teeth. It is now not uncommon for many patients to suffer with cracked tooth syndrome under amalgam filled teeth. This applies in particular to large amalgam fillings which are over 10 years old.
Is mercury in dental amalgam safe?
The amount of mercury released in the mouth under the pressure of chewing and grinding is extremely small and no cause for alarm. However, links remain between levels of mercury in the brain and body, and the occurrence of Alzheimer’s Disease, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, concentration problems, memory disturbances, lack of initiative, restlessness, bleeding gums and other mouth disorders.
Due to the uncertainty over the safety of mercury and its lack of structural support, we at The Wigmore Dental Clinic will only use dental amalgam when no other materials are viable. We believe that all other alternative dental fillings must be explored first.
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