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Posts for tag: fillings

By Okabe Dental Arts
December 13, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: fillings  

Recently, a number of new filling materials that mimic tooth color have come into popular use and, so far, have proven more durable than past versions. Even so, the traditional metal-based dental amalgam remains a viable choice, especially for less visible back teeth and their higher biting forces.

Used for more than a century, dental amalgam is a metal alloy composed of silver, mercury, tin and copper. The mixture is carefully proportioned so that potentially hazardous mercury is kept to a minimum and bonded with the other metals. Amalgam in its initial form is quite pliable so that it can be molded into the tooth structure under repair. Afterward it sets hard to form a durable filling that can withstand the daily force generated when we bite and chew food.

Besides durability, dental amalgam rarely causes an allergic reaction in a patient, and it’s easy for trained dentists to apply. On the downside, however, it can cause temporary temperature sensitivity in the tooth just after filling, and the tooth itself may require some removal of healthy structure to help keep the filling in place. And from an aesthetic point of view, its metallic appearance is considered unattractive especially for front teeth.

The presence of mercury in amalgam has also raised concerns over the years. “Free” mercury — atoms that escape through vapor emitted by the metal — can enter the bloodstream and potentially harm the nervous system. But after extensive study and research, U.S. and international health bodies including the American Dental Association have concluded any free mercury released during chewing is extremely low and well below any harmful levels. These studies have also found no ill effects in either children or adults with dental amalgam fillings.

Deciding on the type of filling material to use — dental amalgam or a newer composite resin, resin ionomer or glass ionomer — depends on a number of factors including the location of the teeth to be filled, the extent of decay and your personal preferences. Taking these into account, we’ll be happy to discuss which type of filling will suit you best for repairing decayed teeth.

If you would like more information on filling material options including dental amalgam, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Silver Fillings — Safe or Unsafe?


It used to be that when it came to treating tooth decay (cavities), your primary option was to have the tooth decay removed and filled with a metal amalgam (silver-colored filling). This treatment sometimes requires a special shape cut called an “undercut” to be drilled into the tooth to hold it in. Unfortunately, it can also involve removal of some healthy tooth structure. Silver amalgam fillings still have limited applications and are still used in back teeth where they don't show in the smile. This is because they are strong and resist biting well; however, over time they can fatigue and fracture.

Older restorative concepts were based upon the development of strong and stiff materials such as gold, which tends to be unyielding and therefore contributed to failures of the remaining tooth substance around restorations (e.g., decay or cracking). Newer concepts tend to get away from the “stronger and stiffer is better” concept and have moved towards safety principles using materials that involve mimicking the properties of natural tooth structure. In fact, it is now clearly established that a new “biomimetic approach” (“bio” – life; “mimetic” – mimicking) to dentistry is possible through the use of tooth-like materials such as composite resins and porcelains. And unlike metal alloys, these newer materials bond directly to the remaining enamel and dentin of which the teeth themselves are made, which both stabilize and strengthen teeth.

These techniques are also suitable for children's teeth and can incorporate fluoride to reduce further decay. But perhaps best of all, using these materials and more modern technologies can restore proper tooth function and normal wear while producing results that appear indistinguishable from natural teeth.

To learn more, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.” You can also contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions about replacing your metal fillings with tooth-colored ones.