Cavity Fillings: Silver vs. White

September 25, 2012 at 4:01 am 3 comments

Silver fillings aren’t invisible. Most of us would prefer to have white fillings that match the color of our teeth. So why aren’t white fillings used exclusively in the dentist’s office? Should you request white fillings for your child?

Here are 10 quick facts about dental amalgam (silver) and composite (white) to help with the answer.

5 Facts about Dental Amalgam

Make-up. Amalgam is made by a combination of metals, bound together by mercury. The potential for mercury exposure through the presence of amalgam is a topic of debate. However, numerous public health agencies, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American Cancer Society to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, agree that the amount of mercury absorbed by the body from amalgams is too small to cause a health hazard.

Strength. Amalgam is strong and resistant, so it is often used in the back of the mouth where we do the most heavy-duty chewing.

Track record. Amalgam has been proven to last for decades and has been in use for over a century.

Cost. Amalgam is less costly to apply than composite fillings.

Pliability and maintenance. Because of its pliability, it is easy for dentists to work with amalgam. It hardens to a durable filling that is low maintenance for the patient.

5 Facts about Composites

Make-up: Composites are made up of resin and ceramic compounds that are strong, durable, and resist breaking.

Improved performance: In the past decade, composites have improved significantly in quality, some lasting for up to 20 years.

Application: Composites are not as simple for dentists to apply as amalgam. It needs a completely dry environment for placement, which can get trickier in the back of the mouth.

Tooth sensitivity: Composites have been known to shrink when hardened, which can potentially lead to temperature sensitivity or further decay. To prevent this, make sure a qualified dentist applies your fillings.

Cost: Composite restorations are sometimes considered cosmetic fillings and are not always covered by health insurance policies. It also costs more than amalgam fillings.

The use of amalgam has declined significantly over the years, but this is largely due to improved dental hygiene at home and the use of sealants in kids. Increased use of white fillings is also a reason – as white fillings have grown into a reliable alternative to the silver-colored ones we grew up with.

Do you have an experience to share about amalgam or composite fillings? Share it with us below.

Entry filed under: Dental Care, Fun Facts, Parent Tips, Teeth, Wellness. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. laurarussell2  |  October 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I was seriously poisoned by mercury amalgam dental fillings. It is now proven to affect children and adults of a certain gene type, ApoE4. James J Woods has published a new paper retracting his findings of safety in children. The neurocognitive and kidney impacts are most dramatic in boys, female hormones seem to be protective. Thomas Duplinsky has just published a new paper documenting increased Rx use among dentists compared to matched controls for four major disease categories. As we age, and hormone levels drop, health impacts become evident in women. Everyone should have a biocompatibility test before dental work, nobody should put a known toxin in their mouth, and all dentists should urge the FDA to follow the recommendations of its 2010 Scientific Advisory Panel to restrict its use, or better, ban it as other nations have done and are doing.

    Reply
    • 2. Alameda Pediatric Dentistry  |  November 5, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Thank you for your comment. We encourage and support continuous, well-designed studies regarding dental materials and treatment to ensure the safety of our patients and staff. Our doctors regularly update their clinical practice with the latest research and recommendations and will certainly review these articles you’ve mentioned.

      Reply
  • 3. laurarussell2  |  November 30, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    What did they determine? I have recently learned that mercury and amalgam can be a problem not just for people with ApoE4, but with MTHFR mutations at A1298 and/or C677, and for boys with CPOX4. It really is not best for anyone, as we pass it on to our children, and may not know what their genes will be if any of these are recessive. In addition, it enters the environment through cremation, as crematoria are exempt from strict pollution controls, and there are no provisions for removing amalgam fillings at death (though I tried).

    You may not know this, but in 2009 FDA posted a warning on their website that amalgam should not be used in young children, pregnant women, or people with a known “allergy” to mercury. The new Commissioner, who had sat on the board of an amalgam manufacturer, had it removed when they finally moved amalgam to Class II with special controls (warnings to dentists, but not to patients). The FDA went against the recommendations of its own Scientific Advisory Panels in not restricting its use and adding warnings to patients. It has not acted on two petitions for reconsideration filed by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) and injured patients. Norway, Sweden and Denmark were first to ban it. Norway has the highest rates of Alzheimers’ Disease, and ApoE4 is prevalent there.

    All dentists can be trained by IAOMT in special equipment, procedures and protocols to remove amalgam safely when indicated. Heat and abrasion increases off-gassing of mercury vapor to dentists, their staff and their patients. I went to an IAOMT conference last year and was deeply impressed.

    The tide will turn soon, you may want to be ahead on this vital issue.

    Reply

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