Dental restorations (fillings) are one of the most common procedures that we undertake. There a variety of direct filling materials available and we will discuss with you the options that will best suit your particular cavity. The majority of restorations we place are tooth coloured.

Is it safe to use dental amalgam for fillings?

Amalgam fillings have been used effectively in dentistry for many decades. Many people have concerns over their safety and appearance. Dental amalgam is an alloy of silver, tin, copper and mercury.

The Australian Dental Association is still supporting the use of dental amalgam based on The World Health Organization and the International Dental Federation’s joint statement confirming the safety of dental amalgam as a filling material. The ADA states “there is no positive gain in having dental amalgam fillings replaced with other material, other than for aesthetic reasons.” Their policy, based on current research available, is that the use of dental amalgam produces no harmful effects.

It is, however, true that the majority of restorations placed in teeth are now tooth coloured. In 1983-4 amalgam was used in 68% of all fillings in Australia. By the late 1990’s this had fallen to less than 30% (NHMRC 1999).

At Bentleigh Dental on McKinnon we will listen to your concerns and answer your individual questions regarding dental amalgam. The majority of the restorations we place are tooth coloured materials. However, there are certain circumstances where these materials are inadequate. Prior to the placement of any filling we will discuss the positive and negative aspects of the materials we can use.

Should I replace my silver fillings?

We find that patients commonly ask us if they should have their amalgam fillings replaced. Our answer to this question depends on the reasons behind the request. We will always listen to your questions and concerns before providing you with all the information you need to make an informed treatment decision.

Understandably aesthetics is a key reason for many people requesting replacement of their silver fillings. In these instances we will generally be able to supply you with a treatment plan to achieve the desired result.

People are also concerned about the safety of their silver fillings. Current research indicates that dental amalgam is still safe to use intra orally. Replacing fillings that are sound may create problems that otherwise may not have occurred. These can include damage to the remaining tooth structure and sensitivity or pain.

There are a number of reasons why a filling may need to be replaced. This can include new decay, breakage or aesthetics. In most instances it will be possible to replace the defective restoration with a tooth coloured filling.

The NHMRC working Party report states that “… general public and environmental health principles dictates that where possible exposure to mercury from dental amalgams be reduced where a safe practical alternative exists. This becomes more prudent in special populations, including children, women in pregnancy and persons with existing kidney disease.”

For those patients requiring the removal of previous amalgam restorations, it is possible to reduce their exposure to the mercury by placing rubber dam over the treated teeth.

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