What are fillings made of and are they safe?

One of the tools your dentist has to be able to address a tooth that’s experienced decay, otherwise known as a cavity, is to use something called a filling. When you have a filling done your dentist will numb the area around your tooth using a local anesthetic. Using a drill, air abrasion instrument, or laser, they will then remove the decayed area of the tooth. What tool is used depends on your particular case and what tools your dentist has available to them. Once your dentist is able to confirm that the area is free of decay, the filling is then added and polished. For fillings that are made to be tooth-colored, there is an extra process of adding layers of filling and curing them with a special light. The filling is then able to be reshaped properly. 

What filling materials are available?

Fillings can be made of a number of different materials, each with its own advantages and differing price points. Luckily, the selection of material is not something you’ll need to decide on your own. Your dentist will help guide you in determining which material is right for you.

Silver fillings, or amalgams, also last about as long as cast gold and can also reliably withstand chewing forces. It’s also a lot less expensive than composite fillings. They do have the disadvantage of needing more of the tooth to be removed in order to place them. They may also cause a grayish discoloration to the surrounding tooth and have been known to be more prone to issues when faced with temperature changes.

Tooth-colored composite fillings have the big advantage of being closely matched to the color of your natural teeth. These are very good when correcting issues with teeth that are most visible, like your front teeth. Composites bond directly to your tooth structure, giving added support to the tooth. These also have the benefit of not needing to remove as much of your natural tooth as other options. They do have some disadvantages worth noting. They will be less durable than amalgams, with composites lasting around 5 years before they need to be redone. Because composites are applied in layers, it can also take about 20 minutes longer for the procedure to be completed. They are also more costly, sometimes being about twice as expensive as amalgams.

Are fillings safe?

In the past, concerns have been raised about the safety of amalgams, or the silver-colored fillings. Part of the amalgam is the toxic chemical mercury, which has the ability to cause a number of different diseases when someone is exposed to it. Numerous studies have concluded that amalgam fillings are perfectly safe and will not cause anyone to end up with mercury poisoning. When mercury is mixed with other metals such as silver, copper, tin, and zinc, a stable alloy is formed. The American Dental Association continues to reaffirm that these types of fillings are perfectly safe. Even if small amounts of mercury vapor are released from the fillings, it is not enough to cause any sorts of neurological disorders or any ill effects.

There are many considerations you’ll need to make when it comes to what type of filling is right for you and your dentist will be right there with you to help. They’ll be able to answer any questions you might have about the benefits of certain materials as well as any safety concerns you might have. If you need a dentist, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll be able to set you on a path towards achieving your oral health goals.


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