Amalgam Fillings

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Since the early nineteenth century amalgam tooth fillings have been used to some effect.  Amalgam is the most popular form of filling, and is widely used due to its relatively low cost and good durability.  The material is a mixture of metals, usually 35% silver, 15% tin or a mixture of tin and copper, small traces of zinc and 50% mercury.  This mixture is ideal for filling cavities within the molars, being able to stand a good deal of wear and tear. 

Amalgam Filling Procedure

  • Firstly your dentist will take a complete oral history from you and will examine your teeth.
  • Radiographs (X-rays) will be taken to determine the damage and ensure that having an amalgam filling is the best solution.
  • You will be given a local anaesthetic injection to the area.
  • You cavity will be prepared through the use of a drill.  This takes away any dead matter and ensures a clean area for the filling.
  • The cavity will be filled with amalgam.  This substance is pliable for 5 minutes so the dentist can fit it properly to the tooth.  After this it starts to set.
  • The filling will be finished and smoothen so that your bite isn’t affected.  You will have to wait 24 hours before you can chew on this filling.

Amalgam Fillings Advantages

  • This type of filling isn’t expensive and is widely used as a cost effective form of filling.
  • Durability. Amalgam fillings are very robust and can take a lot of wear and tear.  Normally they will last about 10 or 12 years before they might need to be replaced.

Amalgam Fillings Disadvantages

  • There have been many reports of increased sensitivity to the teeth after having this form of filling due to the metal shrinking or expanding according to temperature. 
  • Often they are a silver colour, thus causing some issues with appearance, they are relatively easy to spot and can darken over time.  These fillings are usually used for the molars, however, and tend to be placed at the back of the mouth where they will be least noticeable.
  • A lot of healthy tooth tissue has to be removed before an amalgam filling can be applied.  This means that the rest of the tooth could be either weakened or damaged due to the invasive nature of the drilling involved.
  • Tooth stain removal using Air abrasion cannot be used if this type of filling is in use, either to clean the cavity before it is applied or to remove the filling.  This means it is more likely that you will have to have some form of anaesthetic before you have your filling.
  • Amalgam fillings contain mercury, a known toxic metal that, although no studies have proven anything, could potentially cause some form of risk to your health.  In some countries pregnant women are warned against having amalgam fillings during pregnancy.
  • It is believed that over time amalgam fillings expand slightly and cause micro-fractures or chips within the tooth.

Amalgam fillings are very durable, and do last longer than any alternative, however they are a potentially dated form of filling as other, less noticeable, fillings have advanced.  They are best used for the molars, the teeth situated at the back of your mouth, so that they are less visible and also because they are very durable and will last longer here than another form of filling would. 

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