Amalgam fillings are a well-established, durable way to repair tooth damage. They offer a highly effective way to restore the structure and functionality of a tooth, particularly the molar teeth. This type of filling has been used for over 180 years, so it has been tried and tested in millions of mouths.
Having a filling is an extremely common procedure (around eight million cavities are treated with amalgam fillings each year in the UK alone) and most of us, at some point in our lives, will have a cavity that needs attention. Amalgam fillings are the traditional choice, made from a combination of metals including tin, copper, silver and mercury. Although the inclusion of mercury has attracted some controversy, a number of scientific studies have concluded that it has no adverse side effects.
However, an alternative type of filling would be used for those patients who have an allergy to any of the metals within the amalgam and would also be recommended for women who require treatment while pregnant.
- Extremely hard wearing
- Quicker to place than composite fillings
- Less expensive than alternative restorative methods
- The area to be treated is numbed with a local anaesthetic and the decayed part of the tooth removed with special dental tools.
- A base or liner may be placed in the tooth to prevent sensitivity following the procedure.
- The amalgam is mixed and then placed in the tooth. It is tightly compacted to ensure every part of the cavity is filled.
- The amalgam is then shaped to resemble the tooth and, if necessary, it is smoothed down so it feels comfortable.
- In some cases, to improve the strength and durability of the filling, the tooth surface is etched and bonded prior to placing the amalgam. This effectively glues the filling into place.
If looked after properly, amalgam fillings can last for years and are particularly suitable for teeth that are subjected to lots of wear and tear, such as those at the back of the mouth.
More discreet composite (white) fillings can be used to treat decayed teeth but these are more expensive and can be less durable.