Silver Fillings

Silver fillings are a cost-effective way to restore a small amount of tooth decay or breakage.

The Problem:

A small amount of decay on a portion of a back tooth.

The Solution:

A silver (or amalgam) filling is a mixture of approximately 50% silver/tin alloy and 50% mercury. After tooth decay is removed and cleaned, this grey coloured material is packed into the tooth and shaped.

Advantages:

Silver fillings have been used for more than 125 years. Their biggest advantage is that they are quickly placed, making them fairly inexpensive. They are also relatively durable.

Disadvantages:

Silver fillings do not bond (stick) to the tooth structure. This requires the preparation to be "undercut," creating a chamber that is smaller at the surface of the tooth and wider inside. This undercut keeps the filling from falling out of the tooth. The problem is that the creation of this undercut requires the removal of extensive tooth structure. This weakens the tooth and predisposes it to fracture when biting into hard items. Since fillings will break down from normal wear, they will eventually need to be replaced, and this will require the removal of even more tooth structure.

Cosmetically silver fillings are poor. The amalgam generally oxidizes in the oral environment turning it grey or black.

Though silver fillings contain some mercury, current studies indicate what appear to be no measurable health risks to patients. The extensive use of mercury in fillings may have a long term environmental impact.

Colgate – Oral and Dental Health Resource Center, Dental Amalgam: A Health Risk,. Accessed July 2011.

Alternatives:

Composite (white) fillings are an excellent alternative for small restorations near the front of the mouth, limiting the removal of healthy tissue and posing no known environmental risk. In cases of extensive decay, CEREC inlays/onlays or crowns are an effective restorative technique.

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