- Oral Health
How to Choose the Best Dental Fillings for Your Teeth-Good Oral Tooth Care and Dentists
Even In Ancient Times Dental Work Was Done on Teeth
Since the days of ancient Egypt, dental care has been practiced in one form or another. Throughout time, dentistry has become a specialized profession. Back in the Middle Ages, dentists worked on teeth and also cut hair. In the 15th Century, Italian dentists filled cavities with gold, only for the wealthy. Modern technology has afforded us many choices in dental care, and many choices in dental fillings.
Prior to 1819, cavities in teeth were filled with gold alloy. Amalgam fillings (silver and mercury) were invented as a cheaper substitute, over 150 years ago. Amalgam fillings is 50% mercury and 50% metal powder that consists of silver, zinc, copper and tin. In 1979, the University of Iowa, and later in 1981 by Ohio State University, found that mercury was released from these amalgam fillings. The vapor release was increased from brushing, chewing, and from acidic and hot drinks and foods. In 2009. Congress wrote a bill to ban amalgam fillings, but the bill was never passed. Norway, Scandinavia, Denmark and Finland have stopped the use of these fillings because of the threat of mercury.
Mercury is of Concern in Silver Fillings
90% of American dentists use amalgam fillings. In addition to the threat of mercury vapors, amalgam fillings are done in such a way that they can cause cracks in the tooth being filled. This may lead to the need for root canal. The positives of amalgam fillings is that they can last for decades.F;ouride use has helped the enamel on teeth become stronger and more cavity resistant. Regular dental exams are important to detect cavities that may exist underneath the enamel layer. Resin composite fillings are a good alternative to the amalgam fillings. These resin composite fillings are tooth colored and synthetically imitate the existing tooth naturally in functionality, aesthetics, and structure.
Silver Amalagm Fillings are Very Durable
Amalgam fillings are made up of about half mercury and half silver, with a very small amount of other metals including tin and copper. These filings are extremely durable and can last 20-25 years. They are inexpensive and easy to work with. Amalgam isn’t a pretty looking material. The idea that mercury is in the amalgam has many negatives.Mercury releases a vapor and can be absorbed by the body and could have detrimental affects. When old fillings are removed, the mecury is vaporized. Although there is no scientific evidence to support the mercury in fillings could be causing illnesses, some people may have more sensitivities than others. Pregnant women should not be exposed to amalgam fillings. It is best to avoid removing or inserting amalgam fillings in expectant mothers. Mercury is known to cross the placenta.
Composite Resin is Good for Children's Teeth
In children, non mercury fillings are best used to repair tooth decay. A popular alternative to amalgam fillings is composite resin or white fillings. They are also known as bonding fillings or plastic fillings. Technology has made these type of fillings easier to work with, aesthetic to look at and stronger than ever.It is the same color as teeth, and can be matched closely in shade, and can be used on front teeth without attracting attention.Only recently are they being made strong enough for back teeth. May last 5-10 years on back only teeth. More expensive to produce, harder to work with. Secondary tooth decay can develop around the edges with composite resins.Gold and porcelain are alternatives to dental amalgam and composite resins. Gold and porcelain are more expensive, but precise in the ability to work with. Offer the most durability.
Before You Get Fillings - Know Your Choices
Whether the mercury is safe in fillings is still being debated.Mercury is a liquid that binds with amalgam alloy which is a combination of metal - silver, copper, tin, and zinc. The combination of metals is soft and malleable so the dentist can use it to fill cavities. When it hardens it becomes a strong filling. The American Dental Association states that mercury in the amalgam is stable and safe.Mercury contaminated fish is unsafe. Both sides debate about the safety in tooth fillings. People vary on how much mercury is absorbed. Genetics, things like teeth grinding, chewing gum and the number of fillings play a part in the amount of mercury vapor absorbed.Because of the concern about mercury content, other fillings are starting to be designed. So far amalgam (silver colored fillings) are the longest lasting and the least expensive.Millions of people have amalgam fillings. Before you get your cavities filled, know whatever you can about the things going into your mouth.
Silver Amalagm is the Most Common Fillings for Cavities
The FDA needs to define a safe dosage of mercury from the fillings. The current mercury vapor safety metric calculated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Dental amalagm is the most common material used to fill dental cavities. Amalgam was introduced in the U.S. by 2 French businessmen in the early 19th century. Prior to amalgam, tin, lead and gold were used to fill molars. Tin did not last long. Lead was poisonous and gold leaf was expensive and time consuming to apply to teeth. In 1910, gold cast became available and became a better, gentler and lower cost alternative to filling teeth.
Coca Cola Was Invented and Cavities Became More of a Problem
In colonial America and prior most people lost their teeth to gum disease than to tooth decay. People’s diet consisted of low sugar and high fat. Only the rich could afford the expensive commodity of sugar. Tooth decay was known as a rich man’s diseases In America, sugar was cheaper, but people rarely indulged. Around the same time Coca Cola was introduced in 1886, dental cavities became more prevalent. Even today, The Coca Cola Company is the biggest purchaser of sugar in the world. Back then Coke was made with real cocaine, so people got hooked on it easily. Its popularity swept across the country quickly, and so did rotten teeth. Dental cavities are the most common ailment across the globe.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fillings
Type of Fillings
Gold Alloy Fillings
lasts 10-15 years or longer
requires at least 2 dental visits
strong - can withstand chewing
can cause a galvanic shock if next to silver
non toxic - pure
silver fillings (amalgams)
durable - lasts 10-15 years
healthy part of teeth are removed to fill cavity with amalgam
can withstand chewing
can create a grayish hue to surrounding teeth
amalgam can crack over time
aesthetics - matches tooth color
only lasts 5 years
bonds well to give greater support
doesn't stand up to chewing
can be used for fillings and chipped teeth
can take up to 20 minutes longer to fill cavities
less tooth destroyed when filling cavity
may require multiple dental visits
can cost almost 2x as much as amalgam
porcelain (ceramic and glass)
more resistant to stains than composite
can cost as much as gold
lasts a long time
can be used alone or fused with gold
matches teeth color
multiple dental visits
glass ionomer (glass)
good for small or temporary filling
contains flouride for more protection
only need one visit
more prone to wear
good for young children
not good for back chewing teeth
comparable in cost to composite resin
lasts 5 years or less
A Dental Exam
Take Good Care of Your Teeth With Common Sense Habits
Be knowledgeable about your dental filling choices will help you make the right decisions for your teeth and dental health. The best way is to take good care of your teeth. Brush twice a day. Eat nutritiously, eat low sugar. Avoid sticky foods like raisins, and American cheese, sugary and drinks and use dental floss regularly for better oral health and less cavities. Drink fluoridated water, ask your dentist about tooth sealants, and visit your dentist regularly. Common sense and good habits are the best way to take good care of your teeth.