Silver Amalgam Fillings

These are the traditional metal fillings that many people have, that are a used as to treat decayed or damaged teeth. An amalgam filling contains a blend of metals such as tin, copper, silver and mercury which can rebuild the decayed part of a tooth and so preserve its function.

Why have a filling?

Once a tooth starts to show signs of decay then it needs to be treated to prevent further damage. If it is left unchecked then the decay will spread even further into the tooth. This can cause pain and infection and may result in the tooth having to be removed.

A decayed tooth can lead to an abscess which is very painful!

If your dentist advises you to have a filling then it is a good idea to act upon this to prevent the above from happening.

What is the procedure?

The treatment starts with the dentist giving you a local anaesthetic. Many people still think of this as ‘Novocain’ but in fact, there are several types of anaesthetics used in dentistry.

The dentist will use a small hand held drill to remove the decay before shaping the hole so that the filling material is held firmly in place.

He or she will then insert the filling material, being careful to press it firmly in place. Amalgam is soft when first inserted but it does harden once it is placed within the tooth.

The dentist will then shape the filling, trimming off any excess bits so that it is snug inside the tooth. He/she will ask you to bite down to check it’s fitting and comfort.

This type of filling often works best in the back teeth which tend to show the most wear and tear, as a result of chewing.

Advantages of amalgam fillings

The advantage of amalgam is that it is both strong and long lasting. An amalgam filling can last for up to 12 years as compared to a composite filling.

And the disadvantages?

They do tend to turn black over a period of time which can look unsightly. As a result of this some people decide to replace them with white fillings which are natural looking and more appealing.

Are they dangerous?

Amalgam fillings contain mercury along with other metals. Unfortunately, there have been reports in the media about mercury poisoning from this type of filling which has caused a great deal of concern.

Some people have reported health problems which they claim are linked to mercury poisoning.

However, a BUPA 2007 report states that large amounts of mercury are needed to cause any health problems and that amalgam fillings contain only a tiny amount of this metal.

The British Dental Association supports this by stating that amalgam fillings are safe and long lasting, although they advise pregnant women not to undergo this type of filling.

In spite of this, many people are choosing alternatives such as the composite type of filling and more clinics are being set up in response to this.

If you have amalgam fillings and are worried by this then one option is to have these replaced with the composite variety. Have a chat with your dentist about this to see if it is a viable option.

What is the composite filling? Learn more about this in our composite fillings section.

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