Metal vs White Dental Fillings
For more than a century, the primary source of dental fillings has been a combination of silver and other metals, including mercury.
Mercury, a unique and controversial metal, has caused some patients to demand other filling options. Although many dental and health organizations have found little risk to the small amounts of Mercury released in the dental filling process, it still has led to dental researchers experimenting with new filling technology that doesn’t involve metal, such as composite resins.
Composite resins generally don’t last as long, but are easier to repair or replace than metal. Some health officials also warn that though the risk of metal contamination is reduced, there may be other risks in the resin’s chemical make-up.
Though the ultimate goal of either method is the same – fill in cavities and preserve teeth – it’s important that patients be educated on the advantages and disadvantages of both.
Metal (Amalgram) Fillings
According to the American Dental Association, metal-based fillings have been used on more than 150 million patients over the last 100 years. The traditional mixture uses silver and a combination of other minerals.
Pros of Amalgram Dental Fillings:
- An established standard method of filling.
- Long lifespan, especially in the mouth’s moist environment.
Cons of Amalgram Dental Fillings:
- Some patients may have sensitivities or allergies to minerals, including tin, zinc or copper.
- The tooth also may weaken, decay or break over time.
- It can be a challenge to repair or replace.
- The presence of mercury.
- The dark metal appearance of fillings could mar bright smiles.
- The metal has potential to stain adjoining teeth.
White (Amalgram) Dental Fillings
Composite resins are typically a mix of plastic that holds up under the pressure of chewing and grinding and also isn’t excessively damaged by saliva. More people are choosing them: according to a critical review of dental amalgams for the National Institutes of Health, 71 million amalgam restorations were performed in 1999, compared to 86 million composite restorations.
Pros of Composite Dental Fillings:
- Composite fillings can closely match the tooth and not ruin the mouth’s esthetics.
- Composites have better hot and cold insulating properties.
- Composites help make teeth stronger and help prevent fractures.
- They are easier to repair or replace than metal.
- Installing metallic fillings may require a larger prep area, and drilling vs. a laser. Composites can require small cavity preparations which can be better for the tooth’s overall integrity.
- Composite fillings match the natural color of your teeth.
Cons of Composite Dental Fillings:
- Don’t last for as long as metal fillings for larger fillings.
- Possible shrinkage over time, although research is working on decreasing this.
Mercury Poisoning from Amalgram Dental Fillings
Much of the concern over the safety of amalgams arises from the use of mercury as a bonding agent. But when mercury is combined with other materials in dental amalgam, its’ chemical nature changes, rendering it harmless.
Though large quantities of mercury have been linked to serious damage to the brain and major organs, most standard health organizations conclude that there is only a small amount released during the filing process or even day-to-day chewing. The FDA, the ADA, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Mayo Clinic, the New England Journal of Medicine and similar organizations have studied the vapor contained in fillings and concluded that this filling type is safe for anyone over 6 years of age or older.
While FDA officials don’t say there’s a higher risk to pregnant women, fetuses or children under 6, the organization does declares that’s there’s limited clinical information. The FDA recommends that anyone concerned about existing mercury fillings should leave them in, especially if teeth are in good shape. Removing them could damage your teeth and possibly release mercury.
Dental Fillings in Holladay, Utah
Village Dental is conveniently located in the Holladay, UT. area, and we will be happy to discuss the filling options that will work best for your dental needs. Though metallic fillings bring a long tradition of reliability, advances in the design and structure of composites also make them a fine alternative. Possible factors influencing your decision could include the size and location of the cavity to be filled, your dental history, possible esthetics, and possible cost. Call 801-277-1916 to schedule a dental appointment with Holladay, Utah’s favorite dentist!More