Do you ever get tired of looking at those unsightly silver fillings in your teeth? Besides looking terrible, has anyone ever told you what they do to your remaining tooth structure?
Silver (Amalgam) fillings are composed of a mixture of metals, the most controversial and toxic being Mercury. When this type of restorative material is placed in the mouth, it is not bonded to the tooth, but rather packed into the tooth like a putty. Because there is no chemical bond to provide retention, often times, unnecessary tooth structure must be removed in order to provide for mechanical retention. In other words, more tooth structure may have to be removed in the form of grooves and undercuts to hold in the restorative material.
Have you ever thought of what happens when you go from eating something hot to drinking something cold? These type of fillings have been known to expand and contract causing micro or macro fractures in the teeth. This means that one may suffer from a fractured tooth due to the stresses that these types of fillings may cause. Furthermore, the expansion and contraction of these fillings can lead to separation from the surrounding tooth structure. Leaving microscopic gaps between the filling and the tooth can lead to infiltration of bacteria. Ninety-five percent of the time these type of restorations are removed, decay is found lurking beneath. Why can’t we catch this decay sooner? Because of the metal, x-rays are unable to penetrate through, therefore, decay will not be seen radiographically until it has destroyed enough surrounding tooth structure to be visualized.
Why is the tooth blackish/gray? Have you noticed that silver fillings turn your tooth dark in comparison to teeth without these amalgam fillings? This is a direct result of the metals leaching from the restoration and staining the tooth and sometimes even the surrounding gum tissue. In the case of the latter, this is known as an amalgam tattoo. Unfortunately, once the gum tissue is stained, there is no removing the discoloration. In the case of a stained tooth due to an amalgam restoration, some of that discolored tooth structure will be removed upon removal of the silver filling. Many times it is difficult to remove all of the discolored tooth structure, in which case, there are alternative cosmetic procedures available to address these concerns.
So why are these restorations still used? Well they are becoming less and less popular as the public becomes more knowledgeable about ingredients and types of dental materials available. Amalgam fillings are quick and easy restorations to place. They are not as technique sensitivity as bonded restorations. The American Dental Association deems them to be a safe dental material leading to minimal mercury release. We’ve covered the amount of tooth structure lost when placing an amalgam filling, micro and macro fractures, mercury release and metal staining of surrounding hard and soft tissue. With dental technology so advanced and offering so many better choices in restorative materials, you be the judge of what you want in your mouth. After all, you have to live with it!
Ready to get rid of your silver fillings? Then call Dr. Riley today. Your Tucson general dentist with a cosmetic flair. 520-297-9069