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  • Writer's picturerymerws

Does it matter if they're black or white?

Over the years dental amalgam has had a pretty bad rap. They have been successfully used for over 150 years, first used in France in the 1820's, and they have been reformulated numerous times to finally produce the strong silvery material we see today. It is mostly copper, silver and tin, and is mixed with mercury and palladium. This mixture creates a brilliant strong, durable material.

Then in the 1990's a series of health concerns were raised about the possible risks of using amalgam because of its mercury content. Following years of investigation, and analysis it was discovered that in the mouth it is stable and there is no health risk. The worries about health concerns were debunked. It was declared to be safe, healthy and durable. Any way the alternatives were still of a very poor standard, white fillings didn't stick well, and they wore down very quickly. The white fillings of the era also stained a lot, and everybody was left with hideous orange/brown fillings. As dentists we still preferred to use the amalgam in the back of the mouth.

Now in July 2018 the EU brought into effect the "MINIMATA" legislation, dentistry as well as many other industries use mercury, and it is a pollutant when we throw it away. (Think about what happens to the filling when your dentist cuts it out or if they take out your tooth, where does it go?) For this reason they have made us start to cut back on its use. There are now very few circumstances when we have to use it. White fillings or composite as it's called, have now in many ways surpassed the quality of the old metal fillings, they are stronger and last well. The white fillings also retain their lovely appearance a lot longer as well.

Metal fillings work kind of like filling a pothole, you pack in a soft slurry of metal into the hole and then it sets hard, but like the potholes on the Limerick road, those repairs don't last forever, they start to breakdown around the edges, and leak, small cracks appear that stain badly. White fillings are bonded or glued into place and don't suffer these same consequences.

For many reasons people ask us to change their metal fillings for white ones but the important points to take from this blog article are;

1) Amalgam when placed into your mouth is stable, safe and cause no health concerns.

2) Composite (White) fillings have improved vastly in recent years, and are very strong and resilient.

3) Amalgam fillings may be strong, but they just look terrible, and they detract from your smile, even on the back teeth they can be seen when you are talking and laughing.

At Expressions you will never hear us advise the replacement of a filling just for the sake of it, every time you cut the tooth, the cavity gets slightly larger and there is danger (albeit small) of the risk of damaging the 'nerve' of the tooth. I think though in the modern era of dentistry and cosmetics, we can surely do better, and your smile is certainly worth more investment.

Ask your dentist for a thorough assessment, and lets see if we can't make some improvement to your mouth.

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