Amalgam Fillings

Repair Your Cavities

Amalgam fillings, also known as silver fillings, have been a popular choice for dental restorations for over a century. They’re a durable and cost-effective option for repairing cavities and restoring damaged teeth. While dental amalgam fillings aren’t used as widely with the advancement of technology and treatments, many patients may still have them.

Our Jupiter dentist breaks down amalgam fillings below. If you need to schedule an appointment with our team, call us today at (561) 744-0677. While we don’t offer amalgam fillings, we do offer composite dental fillings at our dental practice.

older man smiling

What Are Amalgam Fillings?

Amalgam fillings are restorations used to repair cavities, tooth decay, and damaged teeth. They are composed of a mixture of metals, primarily mercury, silver, tin, and copper, forming a durable and cost-effective filling material. This mixture forms a strong and durable filling material that can withstand the rigors of chewing and lasts for many years.

Composition of Dental Amalgam Fillings

Dental amalgam fillings consist of the following materials:

  • Mercury (approximately 50%)
  • Silver (approximately 22 to 32%)
  • Tin (approximately 14%)
  • Copper (approximately 8 to 12%)
  • Trace amounts of other metals

Amalgam Filling Benefits

There are various benefits to dental amalgam restorations, including:

  • Durability: Amalgam fillings are exceptionally durable and can withstand heavy chewing forces for many years, making them a long-lasting option for posterior tooth dental restorations.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: They’re often more affordable than alternative dental filling materials like composite resins, making them accessible to many patients.
  • Strength and Load-Bearing Capacity: Amalgam fillings are strong and can bear heavy chewing loads, making them suitable for molars and teeth subjected to significant pressure.
  • Longevity: With proper care and regular dental checkups, amalgam fillings can last for decades, providing reliable tooth restoration.
  • Ease of Placement: Dental professionals find it relatively easy to place amalgam fillings, and the procedure is generally quicker than some alternatives.

Amalgam Filling Disadvantages

Just like other dental treatments, there are certain disadvantages associated with an amalgam restoration, such as:

  • Aesthetic Concerns: One of the primary drawbacks of amalgam fillings is their silver color, which is conspicuous in the mouth and may be considered unattractive.
  • Expansion and Contraction: Amalgam fillings can expand and contract with temperature changes, potentially leading to tooth fractures or leakage over time.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may have allergic reactions or sensitivities to the metals used in amalgam fillings, although such cases are rare.
  • Environmental Concerns: Amalgam fillings contain mercury, which can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly by dental practices, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.
  • Mercury Vapor Release: Dental amalgam fillings release small amounts of mercury vapor over time, especially during chewing or brushing.

woman looking at her new smile at the dentist's office

Placing Amalgam Fillings

Preparation of the Tooth

  • Removal of decayed or damaged tooth structure
  • Tooth isolation to keep it dry
  • Tooth etching and application of bonding agent

Mixing and Placement of Amalgam

  • Mixing the dental amalgam material
  • Packing the mixture into the prepared cavity

Condensation and Carving

  • Properly condensing the amalgam to ensure good adaptation
  • Carving and shaping the filling to resemble the natural tooth anatomy

Final Polishing

  • Smoothing and polishing the filling to minimize rough edges and enhance comfort

Costs of Dental Amalgam Fillings

Patients can expect to spend between $50 to $150 for a single amalgam filling. However, each case is unique and will fluctuate based on certain factors including the size and location of the cavity and the location of the dental practice. In most cases, dental insurance covers a portion of dental filling treatments.

man visiting the dentist

Are Amalgam Fillings Safe?

The safety of dental amalgam and its mercury content has been a topic of debate for many years. Here are some insights to consider:

  • Mercury Release: Dental amalgam fillings release small amounts of mercury vapor over time, especially during chewing or brushing. However, the amount released is very low.
  • Exposure Levels: Numerous studies have measured the mercury concentrations in the bodies of people with amalgam fillings. While having amalgam fillings can result in increased mercury levels in the body, these levels are generally considered to be well below safety thresholds set by major health organizations.
  • Exceptions: Some individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of mercury or may have allergic reactions to components of the amalgam. In such rare cases, an alternative filling material might be recommended.

Replacing Dental Amalgam Fillings

Dental amalgam fillings can be replaced for various reasons, including:

  • Cosmetic Concerns: Amalgam fillings are silver in color and can be more noticeable than tooth-colored composite fillings.
  • Fractures or Breakage: Over time, fillings can become worn, cracked, or broken.
  • Decay: If decay develops around or under an existing filling, it may need to be replaced.
  • Concerns About Mercury: While the American Dental Association and numerous other health organizations consider amalgam fillings safe, some people choose to have them replaced due to concerns about mercury exposure. However, removing an amalgam filling can temporarily increase exposure to mercury vapor released during the process.

If you need a filling replaced, contact Al Villalobos, DMD, PA today.

Alternatives to Amalgam Fillings

As dental technology advances, various alternative materials have become available for dental restorations, including:

  • Composite Resin Fillings: These tooth-colored fillings are made of a mixture of plastic and glass materials. They are popular for their aesthetic appeal and ability to bond directly to the tooth structure.
  • Glass Ionomer Cement Fillings: These fillings release fluoride over time, helping to protect against tooth decay. They are primarily used for smaller cavities or as temporary fillings.
  • Ceramic Fillings: These fillings are made of porcelain or other ceramic materials and are known for their strength, durability, and natural-looking appearance.

Considerations and Best Practices

When considering dental fillings, it’s essential to discuss your options with a dental professional to make an informed decision based on your unique needs and preferences. Regular dental checkups and proper oral hygiene practices are crucial for maintaining healthy tooth structure and preventing further tooth decay, regardless of the type of filling material used.

If you have concerns about amalgam fillings or wish to explore alternative materials, consult with your dentist to determine the best course of action. They can assess your specific situation and provide recommendations tailored to your dental health and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can amalgam fillings cause health issues?
How long do amalgam fillings last?
Do dentists still use amalgam fillings?
Can amalgam fillings cause health issues?

The risk of adverse health effects from amalgam fillings is minimal, but some people may experience localized allergic reactions.

How long do amalgam fillings last?

With proper care and maintenance, amalgam fillings can last 10 to 15 years, or even longer in some cases. However, their lifespan can vary depending on factors such as the size and location of the filling, the individual’s oral habits, and the quality of the initial placement.

Do dentists still use amalgam fillings?

Many dentists still use amalgam fillings, particularly for large cavities or restorations on back teeth where the durability and strength of amalgam are beneficial. However, the use of alternative materials like composite resins has become more prevalent.

Do You Need Dental Fillings?

Amalgam fillings remain a reliable and cost-effective option for dental restorations. While they have some drawbacks, their durability and longevity make them a valuable choice for many patients. When considering dental fillings, discussing your options with our dentist to make an informed decision based on your unique needs and preferences is essential.

If you’re looking to replace your amalgam filling with a tooth-colored filling, schedule your appointment with our Jupiter dentist today by calling (561) 744-0677. Conveniently located near West Palm Beach’s Northside areas, including Hobe Sound, Tequesta, and more, our practice offers accessible general dentistry services.