FAQs About Amalgam Fillings And The Role Of The Family Dental Provider

What do you need to know about amalgam dental fillings? From filling basics to safety and more, take a look at the top questions patients ask and the ways your family dental provider can help. 

Why Do Dentists Use Fillings As A Restorative Treatment?

As the name implies, a filling fills a hole in a tooth. This means you may need a filling if you have a cavity. While cavities aren't holes, the family dentist will need to drill away the decayed part of your tooth. The pre-filling process removes areas of infection or damaged parts of the tooth. This can stop the spread of dental decay and eliminate symptoms such as pain or sensitivity. 

Are All Fillings Amalgam Fillings?

No, all fillings are not amalgam. Dental amalgam is commonly referred to as silver. But this doesn't mean amalgam is a completely silver filling. Even though these fillings have a silvery sheen, they are a combination of metals — including silver, copper, tin, and mercury. Along with amalgam materials, fillings are also made from gold and tooth-colored composite resins. 

Why Choose An Amalgam Filling?

A filling choice depends on a few factors. These include the severity of the cavity (depth of the restoration), placement, price, and individual dental health needs. Your dentist can provide an overview of the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision. 

The silver color of dental amalgam makes it a less desirable choice for fillings that are easily visible. If you have a cavity in one of your front teeth, your dentist may recommend a natural-colored composite filling. But if the filling is hidden in the back of your mouth, amalgam is an option to explore.

Amalgam fillings are durable. This makes the material an ideal choice for back-of-the-mouth fillings. Impacts from chewing can chip, crack, or damage less durable types of materials. An amalgam filling can withstand this force, making it less likely that you will need to replace the restoration. 

Are Amalgam Fillings Safe?

Do you have concerns about the mercury in amalgam fillings? The placement and removal of these fillings, along with chewing, may release small amounts of mercury vapor gas. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the research on the subject does not show that mercury in amalgam fillings leads to adverse health effects in every person. But this doesn't mean everyone should choose this type of filling.

The FDA notes that some populations may want to choose an alternative filling material. These include people who are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, nursing, have a pre-existing neurological disorder, have impaired kidney function, have a sensitivity or allergy to mercury or one of the amalgam metals, or are six years of age or under. 

To learn more about amalgam fillings, safety, and your options, talk to your dentist. The dentist can review the current research and help you to make the best decision for your dental and overall health needs.

Make an appointment at a family dental clinic for more information.