Metal-free fillings vs metal fillings

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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LEARNING that you have tooth decay can be upsetting, but you're not the only one getting this news at the dentist's office.

There are many types of dental fillings, and both metal and metal-free fillings are available. The best type of filling for a cavity will depend on many factors, including the cavity's size and location, and your dentist can recommend the best type for your situation.

Metal fillings

Dental amalgam fillings, also known as silver-coloured fillings, are made of a mixture of metals. These are comprised of liquid mercury and powdered copper, silver and tin. The mercury reacts with the other components, binding them together into a durable material. Dental amalgam's durability makes it a good option for large cavities in the back teeth. Amalgam fillings have been used in dentistry for more than 100 years.

Gold fillings are also made of a mixture of metals, including gold and copper. They are also known as inlays or onlays. These are the most durable type of filling and can last for more than 20 years.

Metal-free fillings

Composite fillings, also known as tooth-coloured fillings, are made of a mixture of resin and glass. These fillings look more natural than metal fillings, but they may need to be replaced more often.

Glass ionomer fillings are also tooth-coloured, and they're made of powdered glass. These fillings form a chemical bond with the teeth after application.

Potential advantages of metal-free fillings

While both metal and metal-free fillings can be used to repair cavities, there are a few situations in which dentists may recommend the latter type. Since metal-free fillings are the same colour as your teeth, they look more natural than their metal counterparts. This may be an important consideration if you have a cavity in one of your front teeth or if you're concerned with the appearance of your filling.

Glass ionomer fillings have another potential advantage. These fillings may release fluoride, which is a naturally occurring mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent future decay.

Safety of metal fillings

For those who may have concerns about the mercury content in dental amalgam fillings, scientific studies have consistently found dental amalgam to be safe. The type of mercury found in dental fillings isn't the same kind that can build up in fish and cause health problems.

Further, studies haven't found any links between dental amalgam fillings and health problems in the general population.

Some people may have allergies or sensitivities to the materials used in metal fillings. For these people, metal fillings can cause contact reactions, such as sores inside the mouth. If you have any allergies or sensitivities to metals, like copper or tin, let your dentist know.

If left untreated, cavities will only get worse. So, if your dentist says you need a filling, don't delay. Many types of metal and metal-free fillings can be used to repair tooth decay. If you have questions or concerns about dental filling materials, talk to your dentist.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa.


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