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Frequently Asked Questions

Not Your Grandfather’s Amalgam Fillings

Written By Dr. Kyle Griffith

After approximately ten years of advertising by dentists who claim that "they only place white fillings" and the public's consistent requests for composite fillings, the pendulum is starting to swing slightly away from the exclusive use of composite as the restorative material of choice. Here is why: If dental patients are presented with multiple options for treatment, along with the positive and negative characteristics of individual restorative materials, the informed choice becomes easier to make. The following are positive attributes of amalgam restorations or "silver fillings" of which many people are unaware.

First, historically the concern with amalgam restorations is that they contain the element mercury. While the American Dental Association and current literature confirm that amalgam is safe, there is still some remaining trepidation among the general public. The basis for this misunderstanding is that today's amalgam is not at all similar to amalgam used back in the day. Today's amalgam is a high copper amalgam. The addition of copper reduces the amount of mercury necessary to attain the physical properties required for the material. The copper also binds to tin within the filling, creating a more stable amalgam when compared to amalgam of days gone by.

Second, while I can greatly appreciate that aesthetics are of the utmost concern to many patients, many are surprised to learn that amalgam fillings have a statistically longer life span within the mouth when compared to composite fillings. This usually means fewer dental procedures over a patient's lifetime. Depending on the study you read, amalgam lasts statistically 25-50% longer than composite restorations.

Third, if anyone tells you restorative dentistry is simple, they are mistaken. All dental materials have a specific manner in which they should be handled and placed. Amalgam is no exception. Composite, compared to amalgam, is a very technical restorative material to place. The difference between composite and amalgam placement is that there are more steps required to place composite, increasing the potential for error. If composite is not placed correctly, it can lead to tooth sensitivity, fluid and bacterial penetration of the restoration, pulpitis, discoloration, or early failure of the filling. Allow me to reiterate: Amalgam may be mishandled or improperly placed as well; the only difference is that there are fewer steps in amalgam placement with which to introduce human error.

At 58 Dental, our focus is on comprehensive care and Preventative Dentistry preventative dentistry. We do everything we can to keep our patients healthy and to prevent, to the greatest extent possible, dental disease. If presented with no other choice but to place a restoration, we provide our patients with all of the restorative treatment options, the attributes of each, and we work together to come to a final restorative material choice. 58 Dental wants you to be able to make informed decisions, based upon evidence based dentistry, and we are here to provide that knowledge and assistance.

American Dental Association position on dental amalgam

58 Dental
Kyle Griffith DMD
7090 E. Hampden Ave.
Denver, CO. 80224