Dental Health Matters: Is this the end of silver fillings?

  • Dental Health Matters

People may not be aware of it, but the biggest single change in the practise of dentistry in the past 20 years has been the gradual movement away from silver amalgam restorations to ‘white’ or tooth-coloured fillings.

Silver amalgam has been used to fill teeth for the past 150 years or more and, although there have been many attempts to associate the mercury in the amalgam with the onset of nerve disease, it has been shown time and time again to be a safe filling in the mouth. This makes sense as amalgam fillings consist of 50% mercury that is mixed with a metal alloy of silver, tin and copper. When the mercury combines with the alloy it is fixed in the metal and becomes harmless.

If this is hard to believe, consider what happens when chlorine, a poisonous gas is combined with sodium, a toxic metal. Together they combine to make table salt, sodium chloride, essential to our well being.

So, why are dentists no longer placing silver fillings?

In October 2013, the Minamata Convention on Mercury took place in Japan. Minamata was the site of the world’s worst outbreak of mercury poisoning, which came from factory wastewater. The Convention met to decide how mercury contamination of wastewater could be reduced to the minimum. As dentistry is the second biggest user of mercury in the world the Convention, which included the United Kingdom, agreed to phase out of the use of silver amalgam restorations over the next few years.

What effect will this have on your dental treatment?

Silver fillings will no longer be used for routine dentistry apart from a few exceptions, for example, where moisture control is difficult or where large amalgam restorations in need of repair already exist. All other restorations will be made from tooth coloured composite resin or glass ionomer cement (GIC). GIC is a weaker material and is more suitable as a temporary filling. Composite fillings are much stronger, but have quite a few failings:

* They take longer to place

* They require much more skill to place properly

* They are more expensive

* They are more prone to secondary decay under the filling than the silver restorations were.

But in their favour:

* Less tooth is removed as they can be placed in much smaller cavities

* They bond to the remaining tooth, reducing the risk of fracture later

* They do look much, much nicer!

So in the end, will white fillings improve mouths? Yes! As the next generation of patients see their dentist, they will benefit from smaller fillings with less tooth removal, fewer fractures and, hopefully, a better looking mouth with less treatment in the years to come.

If you want more information about the contents of the article, go to www.dentalhealth.org/different-filling-materials, or contact Penny at Milton Dental Practice: 01993 831 396 or email penny@drbigg.com and come to see us for a consultation.