Fillings Start to Blend In

If you’re over 40, odds are you have at least a couple of silver spots on one or more of your molars. Fillings. More specifically, silver amalgam fillings.

At Dr. Fong’s we place fillings every day. But things are changing in this long-used method for removing decay and replacing the material with a “filling.” Today, for the most part we place tooth-colored fillings rather than silver amalgam. They are basically invisible, and who wants to put a bunch of mercury in their mouth anyway?

Here’s some information on the changing landscape of filling teeth in Santa Ana and around the country.

Caries

Dental decay invades a tooth. You’ll notice when it happens sometimes, as the tooth becomes more sensitive to hot and cold. Other times, x-rays allow Dr. Fong to catch it before you have any pain. That decay is actually called dental caries. It is the most common dental issue in the world. You know it as a cavity.

Cavity is really a misnomer. A cavity is what is left after Dr. Fong uses a drill to remove the decayed tooth material. That “cavity” must then be filled, hence the term “filling.”

Fillings

Silver amalgam has been the filling material of choice since the 1800s. People think those silver fillings are made of, well, silver. Actually, they consist mostly of mercury! Yes, that is disconcerting to many people. To make silver amalgam, dentists mix mercury (50% of the eventual filling) with a powder comprised of silver, copper, tin, or zinc (usually a combination of some or all of those). There really isn’t any potential for harm from the mercury in your amalgam fillings. They’ve been studied by the FDA and they’ve been used since the 1800s. Still, some people don’t like the idea of being like a fish at the bottom of Lake Erie.

At Dr. Fong’s we’re placing mostly composite fillings, also called tooth-colored fillings. These are made from composite resin, a mixture of plastic and glass that is bonded to your tooth in layers, making it structurally strong. Composite fillings actually pull inward slightly, adding strength to the tooth. And, unlike amalgam fillings, where a part of the healthy tooth needs to be removed to make room for the filling, Resin composite fillings can be placed into teeth that have lost much of their tooth structure.

The problem with composite fillings has been strength — they haven’t been as strong and durable as amalgam. But that is changing rapidly. Technological improvements are making resin stronger, to the point where it is beginning to become just about as durable as amalgam.

Do you have a tooth that seems a little overly sensitive? It could have dental caries. Call Dr. Fong at (714) 549-1903 to make an appointment.

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