Over 100 years ago a great new breakthrough in the repair of damaged teeth was made. By dissolving silver and tin in liquid mercury a compound was formed that would harden into a durable metal. This alloy, while still in its soft phase, could be compressed into the cavities prepared in teeth and thus became the “silver” filling we know so well. But wait… did I say “over 100 years ago?” Well, actually, it’s closer to 200 years. The first dental fillings made with this material were placed in England and France in 1826. Since that time they have become extremely common, but across all that same time there has persisted some controversy, mostly due to the presence of mercury, a known toxin. The subject of mercury toxicity is too large for this forum, but in this day and age we have plenty of other reasons to move beyond amalgam in modern dentistry.
As a profession, we do not endorse the concept that our “silver” fillings are poisoning us. However, this material has so many other shortcomings that it is time for us to begin an organized transition away from its use. Amalgam is unaesthetic, it does not adhere to tooth structure and therefore actually weakens the tooth, and it carries environmental issues. Many states, counties and municipalities throughout the U.S. have established requirements for removing amalgam debris from dental waste water in an attempt to keep mercury out of our water systems. With the advent of composite resin and high-strength porcelains materials, we now have superior alternatives for tooth colored fillings. There is no job that amalgam can do that these more modern materials cannot do better. Some dentists will say that composites can’t be placed under certain conditions, but this is really just an excuse for not developing the proper technique for composite placement. At New Concept Dental we have not used amalgam for over 15 years. Our patients’ teeth look better and last longer because of it.