Dental amalgam is a dental filling material used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. It has been used for more than 150 years in hundreds of millions of patients.
Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper. Approximately 50% of dental amalgam is elemental mercury by weight.
Dental amalgam fillings are also known as silver fillings because of their silver-like appearance.
When placing dental amalgam, the dentist first drills the tooth to remove the decay and then shapes the tooth cavity for placement of the amalgam filling. Next, under appropriate safety conditions, the dentist uses a device that mixes the powdered alloy with the liquid mercury to form an amalgam putty.
These components are provided to the dentist in a capsule. This softened amalgam putty is placed in the prepared cavity, where it hardens into a solid filling.
Amalgam Fillings - The Positives
- Because of the metal content, amalgam fillings are very strong and can withstand heavy biting pressure, therefore, used primarily for the back teeth
- Amalgam filling material is relatively inexpensive
Amalgam Fillings - The NEGATIVES
- Amalgam filling material contains mercury and other metals. While there have been no conclusive studies relating the mercury in amalgam to any dangers, mercury by itself is very toxic
- Some people experience a period of hot and cold sensitivity after having an amalgam filling
- More tooth structure is lost because the dentist has to make a bigger preparation