Tooth decay is one of the more common problems in dentistry. You use your teeth to eat, but unless you are very good about brushing, flossing, and visiting our office twice each year, tiny particles of food can get stuck in your mouth. Bacteria can develop there, especially if you’re talking about sugary and carb-heavy foods that bacteria especially love. Over time, this bacteria produces an acid that eats away at the enamel, leading to tooth decay and cavities.
In the past (and even now!), dentists often used metal to create fillings. These would be placed in the cavity to take over for the missing enamel and help prevent the bacteria from coming back. But amalgam fillings (a mixture of different metals) have been falling out of favor in recent years. Why? Because there are hidden dangers in using them.
Why Amalgam Dental Fillings Can Be Bad
Medical science doesn’t stand still. Something that was OK in the past may turn out to be not so good of an idea when enough time and research comes to pass. For example, smoking was originally thought to be fine for you, and those who first experimented with radiation had no idea just how damaging it could be. The same is true with amalgam dental fillings, also called metal fillings. Here’s what we know now about their hidden dangers.
- Mercury sickness: A metal amalgam is made by mixing liquid mercury with other metals such as silver, tin, and copper. Mercury helps keep all those metals bonded together, making a filling that is strong and durable. But mercury is well known as being toxic to our bodies. While very low levels of mercury are not a problem, toxic levels can cause anxiety, headaches, fatigue, and even memory loss. The research is inconclusive on whether the mercury in amalgam dental fillings can lead to toxic levels, but if there are alternatives — as there are — why use any mercury?
- Hidden tooth decay: Silver is common in metal fillings for a variety of reasons. However, silver can interfere with X-rays. Our dentists use digital X-ray images to see your teeth thoroughly, so they can detect any tooth decay before it gets bad. Amalgam dental fillings have the potential of hiding some tooth decay, potentially preventing us from giving you the needed treatment.
- Unattractive: While this is less of a danger, it’s still true that globs of silvery metal in your teeth simply do not look good. And since they are being used less these days, people who see them might think you’re a lot older than you are.
- Teeth cracking: Metal fillings occupy the space that used to be filled with healthy enamel. However, that doesn’t mean the filling is making the tooth strong again. Every time you bite down, the metal filling acts like a wedge and pushes against the sides of the tooth. Because you bite down repeatedly during the day, you are constantly putting stress on the rest of the tooth. This can lead to chips, cracks, and even breaks in the enamel. And the larger the filling is, the more risk there is.
Multiple, Better Solutions For Dental Fillings
These old, amalgam dental fillings do not last forever. With time, they can get worn down and need to be replaced. Your old fillings should not be a health concern for you. Even better, you do not have to resort to metal fillings anymore. At our dental office in Port Charlotte, FL, we have two options that can repair the damage caused by tooth decay but are much easier and safer.
- Tooth-colored resin: Instead of metal, our dentists can make a tooth filling made out of a resin material that will look like your natural enamel. It’s strong and durable like a metal filling, but it will look a lot better. It also doesn’t have any mercury in it.
- Crowns: If the damage from tooth decay is large, a dental crown is usually a great option. These tooth-colored caps fit over the tooth, sealing up any damaged areas and giving more strength back to the tooth.
All of our crowns are made from either translucent porcelain (Procera or e.max) or a translucent zirconia (BruxZir). But they all can protect your teeth without the hidden dangers of metal fillings.
To learn more about how we can replace old fillings, or to get a new filling with modern materials, call us at 941-625-7877. We are always accepting new patients, and we would love to see you.