Is It Worth Getting Amalgam Fillings Removed?
Many people have silver or amalgam fillings as this material has been used to restore teeth for more than 150 years. The attraction of amalgam is that it is hard wearing and very cost-effective. This makes it ideal for restoring larger areas of decay in back teeth and where the filling material isn’t very visible. However, quite a few people are concerned about having amalgam in their mouth, especially as around 50% of amalgam is mercury.
To make amalgam, liquid mercury is mixed with several other metals. This includes tin, silver, and copper to form a malleable putty-like material that can be inserted into the cavity. Once mixed with these other materials, mercury forms a solid compound that is quite stable. Mercury has long been recognized as being toxic, but numerous studies have shown it’s safe for filling cavities.
You are most at risk of mercury exposure when your amalgam filling is being placed or is being removed. This is the reason why dentists go to extensive trouble when removing an amalgam filling. Using sophisticated ventilation systems to remove any mercury vapor that can be released when the fitting is taken out. The level of mercury vapor released is minuscule.
Especially when you consider we are exposed to some mercury through eating certain foods and it is present in the air and water. Although amalgam fillings are considered safe, the European Parliament has voted to gradually phase out the use of mercury in dental fillings by 2030. This isn’t because of concerns that amalgam fillings may be affecting people’s health.
It is rather because of worries over mercury contamination within the environment. Once removed, amalgam fillings must be correctly disposed of so they don’t harm the environment. Amalgam fillings have been deemed safe by numerous respected organizations. This included the American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It also includes the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Despite being deemed safe for use, there are still many people who would prefer not to have amalgam fillings.
So, what should you do if you want to get rid of your amalgam fillings?
Deciding When to Replace Amalgam Fillings
When you have any type of dental restoration then you will need to have it replaced at some point because none of them will last forever. With any type of filling, your dentist will regularly assess their condition. They will be checking for any signs of cracking or fracturing or any indications that the filling material has begun to crumble and leak.
When this happens, your dentist will suggest removing and replacing the filling as soon as possible to protect the tooth underneath. If you do have amalgam fillings and would prefer to get them replaced, it’s worth asking your dentist for advice. Most likely they’ll suggest waiting until the amalgam filling needs removing at which time you can choose a more suitable non-metal replacement.
Provided you haven’t experienced any allergic reactions it’s better to wait for the fillings to come out. If you’re not allergic reactions to the amalgam and there aren’t any signs of decay underneath the filling, it could be best to wait until the filling needs to come out. If your amalgam fillings are concerning you, then, of course, you can ask if you can have them replaced a little earlier.
It’s worth being guided by your dentist’s experience and knowledge as they will suggest the option that is best for your dental health.
What Are the Options for Replacing Amalgam Fillings?
There are two excellent options that can be used to replace amalgam fillings and which are composite resin fillings and all ceramic fillings.
When to Choose Composite Resin Fillings
If you have any small cavities in your front teeth you should consider getting resin fillings. If you have had any small chips or cracks mended in them, then you may already have one or two composite resin fillings. Composite resin is a quick and cost-effective way to restore teeth and this material is relatively hard wearing. It’s best to use this material when you have small to medium-sized cavities as it isn’t quite strong enough to mend large cavities in teeth.
There are a couple of advantages in choosing composite resin over amalgam and the first is its appearance. Composite resin is tooth colored and it comes in an amazing range of different shades so your dentist can easily create a filling that is virtually invisible. This can look far nicer than silver colored amalgam and there is a second advantage in choosing composite resin.
Composite resin is highly biocompatible and whenever you bite or chew on composite resin filling, it will not flex, nor will it expand. It will not contract when it meets hot or cold food and drinks. This is a problem with amalgam fillings as the continual flexing and expanding and contracting of these fillings can create microfractures in teeth. Over time, these microfractures may weaken teeth.
If you choose to have a composite resin filling then your dentist can place it in just one visit. The composite resin is applied to the prepared cavity and is hardened after which it can be shaped and polished to create a very natural looking luster. Its condition will be regularly checked to ensure your new filling is protecting your tooth. Larger fillings need a stronger kind of material to restore them and the most cosmetically pleasing choice of material is porcelain.
When to Choose All Ceramic or Porcelain Fillings
All ceramic fillings are made from solid porcelain and are extremely strong and hard wearing, yet look very beautiful. These are custom-made to fit into the cavity and are bonded in place. An all-ceramic filling will last longer than a composite resin filling but it is likely to cost a bit more. These fillings are ideal when you have a larger cavity in a back tooth.
These days many dentists can create porcelain filling while you wait, using advanced CADCAM technology. With this technology, your tooth is prepared before it is scanned with a tiny camera which creates a 3-D digital impression of the tooth. Using this information, your dentist will custom-design your filling which is then milled or ground out from a solid block of porcelain.
This doesn’t take very long and after the filling is completed it is simply characterized, glazed and polished and is ready to be fitted.
Alternatively, your dentist may choose to take an ordinary impression of your tooth. It is sent to a dental laboratory so your porcelain filling can be made, a process that usually takes two weeks.