What is a silver filling?
A silver filling, also called an amalgam, is a mixture of mainly silver/tin alloy, copper and mercury.
What is a silver filling used for?
Amalgams repair small areas of decay.
How is a silver filling placed?
The decay is carefully removed, and the tooth is cleaned. The amalgam does not bond, or stick, to the tooth, so undercuts must be cut into the tooth. An undercut is where the space created by removing the decay is larger on the inside and smaller on the outside to hold the filling in place. The amalgam is then carved to match the shape of the tooth.
Silver fillings are relatively durable and have a long history of reliability, having been used for more than a century. Their easy placement makes them less expensive.
The undercuts required to properly place a silver fillings remove slightly more healthy tooth structure, which minimally weakens the tooth and increases the susceptibility to fracture. Silver fillings wear out over time, requiring replacement and further weakening of the tooth.
What about mercury?
The amalgam used in dentistry contains a different type of mercury than environmental mercury. Environmental mercury is highly toxic, but current studies have not associated the amount and type found in dental fillings with health risks to patients. However, there may still be environmental concerns with the widespread use of amalgam in dental fillings. Our office meets or exceeds all standards in mercury safety.
Other possible treatments:
Composite fillings are an excellent alternative for minimally decayed teeth. They are custom-matched to the shade of the tooth, they contain no mercury, and are safe for the environment. Larger areas of decay might indicate an inlay, onlay, or crown.