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4 July 2019

An holistic approach to the world of dental fillings.

Anybody over a certain age may still believe that the only available option for a dental filling is to use the dark coloured amalgam material that has been used for a very long time.

This is still widely used and with good reason. It is a strong and durable material that enables patients to eat and chew normally following the filling.

They are not without their drawbacks though, and at the Confidental Clinic in Surbiton, we believe that the time has come for patients to consider a more aesthetic and more environmentally friendly alternative in the form of white fillings.

Why change from amalgam?

There are two main reasons why some patients do switch from amalgam. The first of these is due to concerns they have about the use of mercury in them. This toxic substance can be very harmful, but study after study has shown it to be safe in this form. Whilst it is now believed that vapours are released as the amalgam wears down, this is in such a small quantity as to make no difference when it comes to our health. UK legislation says that amalgam continues to be safe for most people; however some choose to change regardless.

The other reason why people change is the fact that amalgam is made from metal compounds and is therefore very dark in colour. This makes them very visible, even on the back teeth. With improved modern aesthetic alternatives now available, it is straightforward to keep your teeth not only strong following a filling, but natural looking too.

Natural looking teeth

white dental filling material is made from glass particles, resin and a setting agent. This can be adjusted so that it matches the colour of the rest of the tooth, making it more or less invisible to those around you. Even on larger fillings of the rear teeth it can often be used. Where additional strength is needed, your dentist may recommend and inlay or onlay instead.

It is not just aesthetics that you can benefit from. To place amalgam fillings, a tooth has to be shaped so that it can be fitted securely. Unlike white fillings, amalgam does not bond very well to the natural tooth. It also shrinks over time, often leaving tiny gaps between the enamel of the tooth and the filling. Although tiny, these gaps are big enough for bacteria to enter and tooth decay may follow. If you are concerned about the strength of white tooth fillings, you needn’t be. These have greatly improved over the years and are now almost as strong as amalgam. Where we feel that the cavity may be too large for them, we will discuss the available alternatives with you e.g. an onlay or inlay for example.

Environmental concerns and the phasing out of amalgam

Although amalgam, in this form, has been shown to be safe to use, dentists are being encouraged to phase out their use. This is not directly for safety reasons, but the fact that the amount of mercury in the environment has been found to be increasing. It is believed that some of this has come from amalgam fillings. This increase, should it continue ad infinitum can have a negative effect. It will eventually find its way into the bodies of animals and fish, and, in addition to their health, if we consume them as food, it may also end up in us too.

Mercury can cause a number of potentially serious problems including kidney and neurological problems. By using white fillings, you are not only gaining a more attractive smile, but are doing your bit for a cleaner, greener environment too.

For those who already have amalgam fillings, it is possible to have these replaced should you wish to do so. We are always happy to discuss this with you and an appointment can be arranged by calling the Confidental Clinic in Surbiton on 020 8399 1291.

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