AMALGAM FILLINGS EXPLAINED
Dental amalgam has been used to restore cavities in teeth for many years. It is made of an alloy of mercury (about 50%) with silver, tin and copper and was known as a long-lasting and inexpensive material for restoration.
However, in recent times amalgam or ‘mercury’ fillings have fallen out of favour with people for a number of reasons:
Colour: amalgam fillings are an unattractive silver colour and are highly visible to the naked eye. In addition to the way that it looks, the silver and tin components have been known to leech out of the amalgam and internally stain the tooth, which makes the whole tooth appear darker.
Cracking of teeth: dental amalgam expands and contracts much quicker than a natural tooth, which can lead to stress fractures throughout the tooth. These cracks can extend through the nerve of a tooth or can extend under the gum line, both of which can be difficult to restore and can make the tooth unsavable
Health concerns: some people are concerned about the presence of mercury in dental amalgam and the impact this can have of an individual’s health.
New materials: modern adhesive dentistry has created filling materials of comparable strength to amalgam, and they are also more closely matched to a natural tooth colour.
REPLACING YOUR AMALGAM FILLINGS
The decision to replace your dental amalgams should not be taken lightly, as there are a number of considerations that you need to keep in mind. The biggest consideration is replacement material, and there are two main options:
1. Composite Resin Fillings
Composite resin fillings are also known as white fillings. This is a direct (chair-side), tooth-coloured material that bonds directly to tooth structure. This bonding strengthens the tooth and offers a little protection from fracture.
However, composite resin cannot strengthen large areas of weakened tooth and the placement of composite resin is technique sensitive. Composite resin can be used for almost any (except very large amalgam replacements) amalgam filling replacements but is generally indicated for smaller to medium sized replacements.
2. Porcelain Fillings
Porcelain fillings are the most tooth-like substance in appearance and physical properties. Most porcelains are milled by computer either in the dental clinic or in a dental laboratory and are bonded to the tooth. Porcelain is very strong and is used when large sections of tooth need to be replaced. Porcelain can be used to make a crown (which cover the entire remaining tooth structure) or can be made into inlays and onlays (partial tooth coverings).
COST OF AMALGAM REMOVAL
Pricing for the removal and replacement of amalgam fillings is typically charged on a case-by-case basis as it is dependent on a number of factors, such as the number of fillings to replace, the size of the fillings and whether damage has been caused to the tooth. Another important price consideration is whether you are opting for composite resin or porcelain fillings. You will typically need an oral assessment before a price can be given for this procedure.