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Dental Filling Benefits and Risks


Dental fillings are used to fill in teeth that have been affected by tooth decay and cavities. When patients develop cavities, the dentist removes portions of the natural teeth that are infected. Dental materials are used to fill in this empty space and maintain the structural integrity of the tooth. Patients can choose to have their cavities filled with a silver amalgram or composite bonding solution. Silver amalgram fillings have been used for decades, are less expensive, and usually last longer than composite fillings. However, the majority of U.S. patients opt for tooth-colored fillings today because they blend in with the surrounding teeth and look more natural. Learn more about the benefits and risks of tooth-colored and silver fillings so you can decide which material is best suited to your needs.

Dental Filling Benefits

The majority of Americans develop cavities at some point in their lives, and most people have them restored with dental fillings. The dental filling treatment consists of two stages: first, your dentist will clean out the infected tooth, removing all signs of decay and damage; next, your dentist will bond the filling material to the tooth to provide additional strength and support. Patients can choose to have a silver amalgram filling or tooth-colored composite filling placed during treatment. The dental fillings treatment is ideal because it can generally be completed in one dentist appointment, is relatively inexpensive, and results in few side effects.

The dental fillings treatment offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Quick procedure: When only one tooth is affected by decay, the fillings treatment can be completed in as little as one hour
  • Long lasting: Tooth-colored fillings tend to last about five to seven years, while silver fillings tend to last about 12 years
  • Cost: Treatment is typically covered by dental insurance
  • Appearance: Tooth-colored filling restorations produce a natural appearance; often used to replace old silver amalgram fillings

Dental Fillings Risks and Side Effects

Both silver amalgram and composite tooth-colored fillings are associated with the following risks and side effects:

  • Sensitivity: Some patients experience sensitivity to hot and cold in the weeks following the procedure.
  • Pain: Some patients experience pain when biting down or applying pressure to the teeth in the days following the procedure.
  • Re-treatment: The dentist will permanently remove damaged areas of your natural teeth and fill it in with a synthetic material. Eventually, the composite bonding material or silver amalgram that is used to fill in this space will wear down and need to be replaced. Dentists expect composite fillings to last five to seven years and silver amalgram fillings to last about 12 years.

Silver Amalgram Risks

Silver amalgram fillings are associated with additional risks. Over time, silver amalgram fillings can expand and contract due to changes in the temperature. This can eventually damage and weaken the surrounding tooth structure. Silver amalgram fillings contain mercury, which can be toxic. However, several studies have been conducted to determine if silver amalgram fillings cause any health risks, and no conclusive evidence has been found.

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