Amalgam (Silver) Fillings
Dental Amalgam is a commonly used dental filling that has been used for over 150 years. It is a mixture of mercury with at least one other metal. Amalgam has many advantages over other restorative material, such as low cost, strength, durability, and bacteriostatic effects.
Amalgam is used in dentistry for a number of reasons. It is relatively easy to use and manipulate during placement; it remains malleable for a short time so it can be packed to fill any irregular volume, and then forms a hard compound. Amalgam restorations can possess greater longevity than other direct restorative materials, such as resin-based composite materials (white fillings). On average, most amalgam restorations serve for 10 to 15 years, whereas composites serve for about half that time. However, with recent improvements in composite material science and a better understanding of the technique-sensitivity of placement, it should be noted that this difference is decreasing significantly.
Disadvantages of Amalgam Fillings:
Amalgam fillings have some drawbacks. We understand that these fillings are not particularly pleasing to the eye. They can also stain the teeth causing them to look darker. We know that by unavoidable design, these fillings, when older, ultimately result in a weaker tooth structure as the metal of a silver filling expands, contracts, and can split. The edges of the these fillings can also wear down, become weak, and/or break. This results in the tooth not being as protected and can allow a cavity to begin or cause the tooth to chip or crack.
There are circumstances in which composite restorations serve better than amalgam; when amalgam is not indicated, or when a more conservative preparation would be beneficial, composite is the recommended restorative material. These situations would include small occlusal (biting surface) restorations, in which amalgam would require the removal of more sound tooth structure, as well as in “enamel sites beyond the height of contour.”
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.