It wasn’t that long ago that metal fillings were the only option to restore teeth affected by tooth decay. While these restorations were once considered the standard of care for treating cavities, in the last decade or so, tooth-colored restorations have become more popular.
While some individuals choose to replace their metal fillings because of concerns over mercury, the majority choose to replace their metal amalgam fillings to improve the appearance of their smiles.
Are you ready to update your smile? Read on to learn more about your filling options.
Silver Metal Fillings and Tooth Decay
The first silver fillings were introduced in 1882. These silver fillings were used as an alternative dental material to gold fillings. They were less expensive than gold fillings at the time, which was important since many people could not afford the gold.
Over the years, silver fillings became widely accepted as antiseptic and effective against cavity formation. However, they did have one major drawback: The silver particles would wear away naturally over time. This meant that after several years, the silver fillings would need to be replaced.
Over time, dentists began using other materials to make dental fillings. In particular, composite resin (also known as “tooth-colored”) fillings were developed. Composite resins are similar to amalgams in that they consist of small glass beads fused together with a plastic matrix. But unlike amalgams, composite resins do not contain any mercury. Instead, they are composed of a mixture of composites and pigments.
Composite resins also have another advantage over amalgams: They can be shaped into almost any shape or size needed to fit the space where the restoration is being placed. As a result, composite resins are often preferred over amalgams.
If you’re considering replacing your old silver fillings, it’s important to understand how they work. Silver fillings are designed to protect against tooth decay by creating a barrier between the bacteria found in plaque and the enamel on the surface of your teeth. When plaque begins to accumulate around the base of your teeth, it starts producing acid, which can damage your tooth enamel. This acid eats away at the enamel and can compromise your tooth structure. Eventually, the enamel will break down completely, leading to tooth decay.
When silver fillings are exposed to this acidic environment, the silver ions bond to the plaque and form a protective layer called a biofilm. This biofilm helps prevent further damage to the enamel, but eventually the silver fillings will wear down.
When this occurs, the silver fillings may begin to look dull and grayish. If you notice this discoloration, it’s usually best to get your silver fillings replaced. You’ll want to consider replacing your silver fillings if:
- Your dentist has recommended that you replace your silver fillings.
- Your dentist says that your silver fillings are showing signs of wear.
- You’ve had problems with tooth decay near your silver fillings.
Replacing your silver fillings with composite resin fillings will help to prevent future tooth decay. Because these fillings don’t contain mercury, they won’t cause harm to your body like traditional amalgam fillings. And because they’re more durable than silver fillings, they should last longer.
Health Concerns and Metal Fillings
Although most people who have their silver fillings replaced don’t experience any adverse health effects, there are some concerns about whether the mercury in amalgam fillings is safe. Some studies suggest that mercury exposure from dental fillings could lead to neurological disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities.
The American Dental Association recommends that children under age 6 should only receive composite resin fillings to reduce mercury vapor exposure.
In addition, the ADA states that anyone who has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease should avoid having amalgam fillings removed.
In general, composite resin tooth-colored fillings are considered safer for use in young patients than amalgams. However, if you have any questions about your specific situation, you should discuss them with your dentist.
The Benefits of Composite Fillings
Composite resin fillings offer many benefits over traditional fillings, including:
- They’re less expensive than amalgam fillings.
- Because they’re made of plastic and contain no mercury, they won’t release harmful substances when they wear down.
- They’re easier to clean than the amalgam or metal type of fillings, which means that they require fewer visits to your dentist.
- They’re stronger than dental amalgam fillings and can be used in areas where amalgam fillings aren’t appropriate.
If you’d like to learn more about composite resin fillings and dental restorations, call us today!
Tooth Decay Prevention
It’s important to remember that tooth decay isn’t just caused by poor oral hygiene. It also occurs when food particles collect on the surface of your tooth. These particles create an acid-producing environment that causes tooth decay. To protect against tooth decay, brush twice daily using fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once per day.
Call us today to learn about your treatment options for cavities or other ways we can help restore your tooth structure.