While the word “amalgam” sounds like some puzzle you’ll find in the Florida Today Entertainment section, the stuff’s been finding a home in hundreds of millions of teeth for over 150 years.
Dr. Brown has used his fair share of the stuff for fillings on patient teeth, but, like the telegram, amalgam’s time has come and gone. At Implant Dentistry of Florida, we prefer to place white composite fillings these days. Still, here’s a little history on dental fillings, at least so you can use the info the next time you watch Jeopardy!
What is a Dental Amalgam?
Dental amalgam is a dental filling material that has been used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay since the 1800s. Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals consisting of liquid (elemental) mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper. Approximately 50% of dental amalgam is elemental mercury. The chemical properties of elemental mercury allow it to react with and bind together with silver/copper/tin alloy particles to form an amalgam.
Who knew you had the makings of a mine in Butte, Montana in your teeth? But there’s one reason amalgam has been so popular — strength. Amalgam fillings are very durable and can last for decades. That’s an important thing because every time you have to replace a filling, dentists have to remove a little more of the healthy tooth to make room for the filling.
People think of these fillings as “silver” fillings because they are a silver color. But they are more elemental mercury than anything.
Composite Resin to the Rescue
Some people get freaked out when they realize they’re getting mercury put into their mouth. But it’s not a big deal. Yes, elemental mercury does release very low levels of vapor that can then be inhaled and absorbed by the lungs. But the FDA has long studied this stuff and found that dental amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children over the age of six. Still, despite being safe, amalgam fillings are kind of ugly. If a person has eaten one too many Milky Way bars and has a mouth full of fillings, it can look like an old episode of Bonanza with a vein of silver ore on their molars.
In recent years, more and more dentists and patients have opted to use composite resin for fillings. Composite resin is a mix of tooth-colored plastic and glass, so when placed it is virtually invisible in the tooth. The problem has been that composite hasn’t been as strong as amalgam, kind of like Captain America vs. Superman.
But that has been changing. Recent advances have strengthened the composite material used for fillings so that it can now be used in the molars, where the bite force is pretty intense. Drs. Brown and Vaughn place composite fillings in much the same way we do bonding on the teeth. We place the composite in layers and then harden it with an LED light. The result is a strong filling that doesn’t show the silver look of amalgam. Composite fillings are invisible. That’s another reason we like them when it’s time to replace an old filling.
Schedule a Consultation
Who needs a bunch of silver in their molars? At Implant Dentistry of Florida let us replace an old amalgam filling with white composite. Call us at 321-259-9429 to make an appointment.