After careful consideration, your dentist may decide that a filling is necessary for your dental health. You may envision traditional silver fillings, but there are actually many options when it comes to protecting your teeth from decay.
What is the Purpose of Fillings?
Fillings are required when there’s evidence of tooth decay, also known as cavities. Tooth decay is caused by bacterria that, when exposed to sugar, create acide that attacks teeth. Enamel breaks down, creating a hole that is called a cavity. Fillings are materials placed in teeth that help stop the progress of tooth decay and protect it for future use.
What Are Amalgam Fillings?
Amalgam has been used for over 100 years in tooth fillings, and is recognized as a standard material in dental procedures. The word “amalgam” comes from amalgamation, which means “mixture.” These fillings include a combination of different metals, including copper, silver, and mercury.
Why Mercury-Free Fillings?
It’s the presence of mercury that has caused controversy in recent years. Mercury is a known toxin, and there has been concern among scientists and dental professionals that mercury is released from these metal fillings when they’re placed and when we use our teeth to chew.
With advances in dental technology, amalgam is no longer required for most procedures as it has been used in the past. Instead of amalgam, substitutions made from porcelain or similar composites are used that look and wear like regular teeth – and don’t contain mercury.
Should Amalgam Fillings Be Replaced?
Although there is concern, there’s been no definitive evidence regarding long-term harm from amalgam fillings. If you currently have a metal filling, it needs to be regularly evaluated by your dentist – if it still functions well, it should be left alone. However, if it needs to be replaced, consider talking with your dentist about alternatives to amalgam fillings.
Avoiding Future Fillings
There has been a recent decrease in the use of amalgam, due to the increase of alternative materials for fillings as well as a decrease in the presence of cavities. Avoiding future fillings, however, has a lot to do with a solid daily oral hygiene routine. A balanced diet, brushing your teeth twice a day, and flossing once a day can go a long way toward keeping teeth healthy, strong and free of fillings!