What’s in a Filling?
Fillings, known clinically as amalgams, are synthetic materials that are used to restore a portion of a tooth damaged by decay or traumatic injury. There are different types of materials used to fill cavities, including resin, gold and metal alloys.
Conventional amalgams are the silver-colored material many people have had placed in their teeth following treatment of a cavity. Many amalgams are actually a combination of various metal alloys, including copper, tin, silver and mercury. Mercury, a binding agent used in amalgams, has come under scrutiny lately by some health officials who claim it may cause long-term health problems.
Is Mercury in a Dental Filling Safe?
The American Dental Association cautions that emotional reports claiming amalgam is responsible for a variety of diseases are confusing and perhaps even alarming people to the point where they will not seek necessary dental care. Moreover, the ADA maintains that there has been no scientific evidence to show that amalgams are harmful because the miniscule amounts of mercury are so stable, they present no risks to humans. There have been rare cases of patients developing allergic reactions to amalgams.
Amalgam is no longer used by Dr. Michaels.
There are alternatives to conventional substances used in amalgams, such as gold and metal alloys. These include materials made from porcelain and composite resins, which are colored to match natural tooth enamel.
Common amalgam alternatives include:
- Composite fillings – As stated, composite fillings are just what the name implies: a mixture of resins and fine particles designed to mimic the color of natural teeth. Dr. Michaels uses a sonic filling device which assures the best possible adaptation of the filling material to your tooth. This technology provides the best seal for your tooth minimizing the bacteria from accumulating and causing more cavities.
- Ionomers – Like composite resins, these materials are tooth-colored. Ionomers are made from a combination of various materials, including ground glass and acrylic resins. Ionomers are typically used for fillings near the gum line or tooth root, where biting pressure is not a factor. They are more fragile than other fillings, however, the material itself gathers and retains fluoride to help strengthen the tooth. Sometimes Dr. Michaels will prescribe a high fluoride tooth paste to be absorbed by the fillings and enhance the tooth’s resistance to recurrent cavities.
- Porcelain (ceramic) – These materials are usually a combination of porcelain, glass powder, and ceramic. Candidates for porcelain fillings are typically crowns, veneers, and onlays and inlays. Unlike ionomers, porcelain fillings are more durable, but can become fractured if exposed to prolonged biting pressures. There is also evidence to suggest that onlay, and/or inlays can cause fracturing of teeth. Dr. Michaels uses these material for crowns and veneers. In these situations, they provide a durable, long-lasting restoration.