At Lifetime Family Dental in Gilbert, AZ, we use composite resin to fill cavities. But in the not-too-distant past, dentists used amalgam metal fillings to repair cavities. There has been much research and debate in the medical and dental communities concerning the use of amalgam. Many patients who had amalgam fillings as a child or young adult have contemplated replacing amalgam with composite resin. Here are five reasons to replace amalgam fillings.
Amalgam contains mercury
Roughly half of the material in an amalgam filling is mercury. This mercury is slowly released as a vapor that can be inhaled. The vapor can potentially cause damage to the brain, lungs and kidneys. There is debate about the dangers of low-level mercury emissions in amalgam, with the FDA approving its use in children above the age of six. In spite of this approval, many patients opt for replacement because it brings them peace of mind.
Limited lifespan of amalgam
Some patients experience a longer lifespan of amalgam, but on average, amalgam fillings last for about ten years. As it ages, amalgam begins to break down, leading to the possible return of decay. If the decay is not detected early enough, a crown may be needed instead of a new filling. It is a good idea to have your amalgam fillings checked for breaks or leakage.
Mercury is used in thermometers. It expands and contracts with variations in temperature. As in a thermometer, so it is in a filling. Hot and cold food and drink can cause the mercury in the amalgam to expand and contract. The expansion causes pressure on the tooth which is painful and can lead to cracks in the tooth. Contraction can pull the amalgam away from the tooth, allowing a bacterial doorway into the cavity. Eventually, the entire tooth structure can be weakened.
Amalgam is non-bonding
Unlike composite fillings that actually are bonded to the tooth, amalgam fillings merely fill a hole. When stress is applied to the tooth, the tooth is much more likely to give under pressure than the amalgam. This can crack and fracture the tooth. Composite resins actually strengthen the tooth and work with it to evenly distribute the forces of chewing.
Composites look natural
Amalgam fillings have nowhere to hide. Their silver color is a dead giveaway that can destroy the beauty of a smile. Composite fillings can be matched in color to the tooth they are filling. They are a great cosmetic solution because they can be nearly invisible.
Whether your concerns are based on health or cosmetics, these are good reasons to replace amalgam fillings. At Lifetime Family Dental, we are happy to answer your questions and design a plan for your amalgam replacements. Call us for an appointment and a consultation. Your oral health is our top priority.