When it comes to dental fillings, dentists and patients have often opted for the cheaper and durable amalgam or “silver” fillings. Silver fillings are actually made of a mix of metals including mercury, silver, copper, and tin. Although silver fillings last a long time, the disadvantages are that they don’t match the natural colour of the teeth, can become exposed to bacteria after some wear, and have been associated with health concerns related to the mercury content.
When not properly managed, the use of dental amalgam can also have a significant impact on the environment, as these heavy metals find their way into the water system. Once in the environment the contaminants can cause changes in acidity, oxygen levels and temperature, as well as having the potential to be converted to even more harmful methylmercury, when consumed by bacteria.
Dental Fillings Best Practices
At our North Vancouver Dental office, we recommend replacing old silver fillings with white fillings or investing in white fillings up front. Since silver fillings are made of hard metal, they can sometimes crack or develop gaps in the seal, letting in bacteria that leads to decay. During dental exams, existing fillings are checked for signs of decay or breaks, but with silver fillings it can be difficult to identify new issues. Discolouration is harder to spot against dark fillings, and the metal is opaque in x-rays.
For best practice and best aesthetic result, we recommend white or “tooth-coloured” fillings as the best option. White fillings are made of composite resin that is hardened one layer at a time with a special light. After it is formed, the filling is shaped to look and feel as natural as possible. Down the road, it is easier to identify issues because staining will occur if there are any cracks or gaps.
During your next appointment, ask your dentist about the health of your existing fillings and possible options for replacing them.