In the past, teeth were filled with a mixture – or amalgam – of different metals. Today that is changing as more natural-looking and metal-free fillings are becoming the preferred approach.
Dentists are using more tooth-like materials (composite resins and porcelains) that are both safe and predictable. The most important feature, for many people, is that they look and react more like natural teeth.
Composite resins, or tooth-colored fillings, provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small – to mid-size fillings that need to withstand moderate pressure from the constant stress of chewing. They can be used on either front or back teeth and are a good choice for people who prefer that their fillings look more natural.
These restorations are aesthetically pleasing and very strong thanks to new bonding technologies.
Advantages of Composite (Tooth-Colored) Fillings:
- Aesthetics — the shade/color of the composite fillings can be closely matched to the color of existing teeth. Composites are particularly well suited for use in front teeth or visible parts of teeth.
- Bonding to tooth structure — composite fillings actually chemically bond to tooth structure, providing further support.
- Versatility — in addition to use as a filling material for decay, composite fillings can also be used to repair chipped, broken, or worn teeth.
- Tooth-sparing preparation — sometimes less tooth structure needs to be removed compared with amalgam fillings when removing decay and preparing for the filling.
The result is a beautiful smile!
Disadvantages of Amalgam (Silver) Fillings:
- Poor aesthetics — silver fillings don’t match the color of natural teeth.
- Destruction of more tooth structure — healthy parts of the tooth must often be removed to make a space large enough to hold the amalgam filling.
- Discoloration — amalgam fillings can create a grayish hue to the surrounding tooth structure.
- Cracks and fractures — although all teeth expand and contract in the presence of hot and cold liquids, which ultimately can cause the tooth to crack or fracture, amalgam material — in comparison with other filling materials — may experience a wider degree of expansion and contraction and lead to a higher incidence of cracks and fractures.
- Allergic reactions — a small percentage of people, approximately 1%, are allergic to the mercury present in amalgam restorations.
Fortunately, silver fillings can safely be replaced with Tooth-Colored Restorations.
Should I Replace my Amalgam (Silver) Fillings?
In the past if you had a cavity, your only option was a metal filling. These fillings are not particularly pleasing to the eye, and we know that by unavoidable design, silver/mercury fillings ultimately result in a weaker tooth structure. Patients today have a more attractive option: Tooth-colored composite fillings. And the results are so remarkable that many patients wonder if they should proactively replace all their metal fillings with composites.
It’s a choice that patients should make in consultation with their dentist. Cosmetic dentist, Dr. Edward Coffey, who offers a full range of cosmetic and restorative dentistry treatments in Encinitas, CA, can explain the ins and outs of tooth-colored fillings as well as discuss when replacing metal fillings is appropriate.
Given the current understanding of amalgam fillings and the supporting research, Dr. Coffey does not advise patients to change silver fillings that are otherwise free of any other problems or defects. Amalgam fillings should be treated like any other dental restoration when it comes to replacement. Signs of decay, chipping, ditching, cracking or poor margins are all good reasons to replace any filling. A perfectly good amalgam with no defects is probably best left alone unless it poses a cosmetic concern to you. However, when patients have a desire to change their silver fillings for health concerns, or for aesthetic purposes, we respect that desire and we are comfortable knowing we can provide a better restoration!
If you would like to schedule a FREE consultation for fillings (x-rays not included) with Encinitas Dentist, Edward B. Coffey, DDS MS – Encinitas Dental Art, please call us at (760) 942-7272. Hablamos Español.