Lots of questions still come up today about silver fillings versus tooth colored fillings. Questions such as “Which one is better?”, Which ones cause me harm?”, and “What should I do?”.
Let me first talk about silver fillings (known as amalgam fillings) which have been around proior to 1900. As recent as 2009, the FDA looked at 972 scientific studies that looked at the safety of dental amalgam. Not one single study found to be anything that showed otherwise. That may come as a shock to you, as you may have heard otherwise, because the media tends to sensationalize these things a lot. Despite the 972 studies, your question might still be: “What about amalgam? Is this something that I should use or not use in my mouth?”.
Yes, there are drawbacks to using amalgam, but from a professional and ethical standpoint I cannot tell you that amalgam is dangerous to use in your mouth. Most people elect to have tooth-colored fillings which in this day and age hold up just as well as the silver fillings. Certainly, they look a heck of a lot better!
Amalgam fillings tend to expand and contract with temperarture changes causing microfractures in the teeth, and they tend to break down at the margin (which is the interface between the amalgam filling and the tooth). Amalgam fillings tend to cause more problems for the patients long term, primarliy because of the mindset that once you’ve had a filling, that’s it. Not so! Yes, they have been used since the turn of the century but technology moves forward!
I’m glad to report that tooth colored fillings are a really good option to use – so you should consider using tooth colored fillings rather than amalgam. Do I use amalgam fillings in my office? Sure I do. Why would I use tooth-colored (composite or resin) fillings for the most part, instead?
The good news about composite fillings is that there is no contraction and expansion; the adhesive which bonds the filling in place actually helps strengthen the tooth which has decayed (something an amalgam doesn’t do); they look nice; they’re easily repairable; and, the newer composites have a very acceptable wear rate – close to that of enamel.
The downside to composites that no one talks about is that there are no studies on their safety! Does that shock you? Although the scientific community doesn’t believe there are any components of composite fillings that “should” be cause for concern (and composites have been around for over 50 years now), that remains to yet be seen.
Yes, there are alternatives for composite and amalgam fillings … options that are very long-lasting. These options included gold (not usually chosen because of color) and porcelain (composite is not the same as porcelain). I hope this helps disseminate some important information about your choices for care!
Whatever you do, get the care you need!