In the 21st century, our teeth are healthier and stronger than ever before. Regular dental check-ups, a knowledge of good and bad foods and a wide range of dental products on the market have all contributed to this. However, there are very few people who will escape the need for a filling at some point in their lives.
In fact, over 8 million fillings are place each year in the UK- making it one of the most common dental procedures undertaken.
Amalgam fillings (silver coloured metal alloy) are traditionally used to successfully repair a tooth in the event of damage or cavity. This well-established, quick and highly safe procedure helps to save a tooth by restoring look and function for the long-term.
Amalgam fillings have been used for over 150 years and are extremely hardwearing. When looked after properly some can last for 20 years or more. Amalgam fillings are a mixture of mercury and various other metals including silver, tin and copper. Historically they are more durable and longer-lasting than composite. The only stronger option is gold- which is far more expensive.
For these reasons, amalgam is considered a highly cost-effective option for many people and is why they are provide from free on the NHS.
Is amalgam safe?
There have been some concerns over the use of mercury in amalgam fillings however, numerous scientific studies over the last century have shown that the small amount of mercury in fillings is safe and there is no proof of a link to any health issues. When combined with the other metals, the chemical composition of mercury changes- making it harmless.
Some people very occasionally have allergies to amalgam and therefore opt for other treatments. It is also advised that pregnant women avoid amalgam fillings in order to stop mercury passing onto their baby through the placenta.
More aesthetic alternatives to amalgam.
In the 21st century many people seek a more natural looking alternative to amalgam. Although these options will often give a more attractive finish they are considered ‘cosmetic’ meaning that they are not available on the NHS and will need to be paid for by the patient.
Gold fillings – even stronger and more durable than amalgam, gold fillings are highly suited to the back teeth where more force is required for eating.
Composite (white fillings) – increasingly popular, white fillings are barely noticeable as they blend in naturally with your existing teeth. Many newer materials are now just as strong and hard-wearing as amalgam.