For many years, amalgam has been used to fill our teeth when it is needed. Whilst not the most attractive of materials, amalgam is extremely strong and allows our teeth to function as we would want them to do.
What is amalgam?
Amalgam has actually been used for around 100 years in the field of dentistry. It is made from a mixture of metals which include, tin, copper, silver and, of course, mercury. This provides a filling that will withstand an awful lot of pressure which is especially important on the rear teeth that are used for chewing our food.
Is It Safe?
Quite a lot of research has been done into the safety of using amalgam in fillings and have concluded that there are no major concerns in children over the age of six years.
However, as mercury is known to accumulate in the body, many people are still concerned and have campaigned for the end to its use in fillings. Whilst this doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon, there is good news for people who have genuine concerns. This comes in the form of new tooth coloured fillings which contain no mercury at all.
These white, or tooth coloured, fillings are made from a mixture of glass and resin, along with a setting ingredient and can be shaded to match the rest of the natural tooth. It is a quick and effective way of restoring a damaged tooth without the dark colour of amalgam fillings.
Tooth Coloured Fillings Strength
There have been some concerns as to how strong these fillings are and, up until recently, white fillings were not used in the rear teeth as they were not deemed to be strong enough to withstand the amount of force placed upon them. Generally speaking, they were used on the more visible front teeth where they are far preferable to amalgam.
With advances in science though, many of the tooth coloured fillings are approaching the strength of amalgam and more dentists are happy to place them in rear teeth fillings although this may depend on the extent of the filling needed. Tooth coloured fillings, although much stronger, do not yet quite match the strength of amalgam so most dentists will only decide after an examination as to whether they are appropriate for your teeth.
Some dentists may be prepared to remove the old amalgam from your teeth if this is desired however, generally speaking, it is considered best to leave this until the amalgam comes out or becomes damaged as removing it otherwise could lead to further damage of the natural tooth.
Whether because of concern about the mercury being used or simply for aesthetic purposes, white tooth coloured fillings seems to be the way forward for most dentists and their patients and eventually, no doubt, concern about mercury poisoning will fade away as less and less people use this type of filling to have their teeth repaired. We may look back at old photographs and wonder why a material was chosen which is so dark compared to our beautiful white teeth.
Although not overly concerned about mercury being used, the author Sheila Isles opted to have white tooth coloured fillings to replace her amalgam ones as she felt that it improved her smile.