It was always pretty easy to spot when a person had a filling up until about a decade ago — all you had to do was look for the silver in their molars. That silver is the silver amalgam, the standard filling of choice since the 1800s.
But there are a few problems with amalgam fillings, so there has been a move to make stronger and stronger composite resin that closely matches the color of the natural tooth. Now it’s virtually impossible to spot a composite filling.
Composite resin is the filling material of choice for Dr. Steier.
What’s the deal with silver amalgam?
Silver amalgam is nothing near! It’s been used for dental fillings for around 150 years. Hundreds of millions of teeth have had amalgam fillings placed in them.
What most people don’t know, however, is that dental amalgam is a mixture of metals consisting of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy comprised of silver, tin, and copper. OK, who wants to have a mine’s worth of metals in their mouth?
Amalgam fillings are very strong, but here are the problems with them:
- They are unsightly. When you open your mouth, everyone can see exactly how many amalgam fillings you have.
- They require more of the healthy tooth to be removed. Silver amalgam isn’t bonded onto the tooth; it is packed in. To adequately anchor the filling more of the healthy tooth (in addition to the decayed portion) needs to be removed and a ridged surface is created to hold the amalgam.
- No one wants mercury in his or her mouth. While they’ve been deemed safe, people are less and less interested in having a combination of metals, particularly mercury, in their mouth.
- Amalgam fillings can crack teeth. Because the metals expand and contract with hot and cold, amalgam fillings can cause the tooth to crack.
Composite fillings to the rescue
Dr. Steier still places some amalgam fillings, particularly if the patient insists, but if possible, she prefers composite resin. Composite resin is a combination of powdered glass and acrylic resin. Formerly, the problem with composite resin has been that hasn’t been as durable as amalgam or gold. But technology has continually improved to where composite resin today is very durable.
Here are the advantages of composite fillings:
- Composite fillings match the color or your tooth enamel, so they blend perfectly and cannot be seen.
- Composite is metal- and mercury-free.
- The filling is bonded to the tooth, which pulls inward on the tooth’s periphery, making the tooth stronger.
- Tooth-colored fillings require less healthy tooth tissue to be removed.
The next time you need a filling (or need to have an old amalgam filling replaced), odds are it will be a composite filling. And no one will know your tooth is filled at all.