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Are amalgam fillings harmful? Are they as strong as white fillings?

2 months ago

When cavities have formed in your teeth, dentists use fillings to fill them. There are various types of fillings, but the most common ones used are amalgam and composite, also known as metal and tooth-coloured respectively.

An amalgam filling is composed of a combination of metals which include copper, mercury, silver, and tin. One advantage of an amalgam filling is that it’s extremely hard-wearing, which means it can withstand the heavy chewing and grinding action your back teeth does for as long as twenty years, more or less. That’s a given if you constantly practice good oral and dental hygiene. Another definite characteristic of an amalgam filling is that it contains only a small amount of mercury, which doesn’t make it poisonous when mixed in with other metals.

Research has proven that amalgam filling is safe and does not cause health problems. However, as a precautionary measure, pregnant women are not advised to have amalgam fillings. The reason for this is because mercury in the mother’s system can be passed on to the baby through the placenta. If you are pregnant or suspect that you are, inform your dentist and they will either advise you to use another type of filling or postpone applying your amalgam filling until after you’ve given birth. If you are allergic to some of the metals used in amalgam fillings, you may require a different type of filling. Consult your dentist if this is the case.

Composite fillings on the other hand, are tooth-coloured fillings, which means they’re made to match the natural colour of your teeth. Thus, they look more natural compared to amalgam fillings. A dentist would usually advise you to have composite fillings if the specific area of your teeth that needs it shows whenever you smile or talk. Composite fillings can also be used for building up the edges of chipped or worn teeth.

If your dentist has confirmed that you need to have a filling done, you will be administered first with an injection of a local anaesthetic before the procedure begins. The anaesthetic effectively helps in blocking the pain from the area affected, so you will feel minimal or no pain at all and you will stay awake for the duration of the procedure.

Your dentist will then remove parts of your teeth that are decayed and weakened using a small dental drill. Next, the dentist will clean the affected area thoroughly. A liner may be used to coat the affected area to block open passages to the nerve that may cause you pain. Only after this can the dentist apply fillings to your cavities. The filling will harden after a few minutes, or in some cases, a blue light is used to make the filling set within a few seconds. After the procedure, it’s completely normal if you don’t feel anything in the treated area of your mouth. It usually takes several hours for the effect of the anaesthetic to wear off and sensation to come back into the treated area.

During this time, take care not to apply too much pressure or cause damage to your mouth, especially to the treated area. Avoid biting your tongue and bumping or knocking your mouth when drinking, eating, or talking.

Dr Neil Paryani

BDS (Hons.) MJDF RCS (Eng), MClinDent (FRP Lond) FICOI, MSc (Dental Implantology)

Dr Poonam Paryani

BDS (Lond) MJDF RCS (Eng)

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