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Silver Filings

An inexpensive way to restore tooth decay or tooth breakage at the back of the mouth.

The Problem:
Decay or a fractured back tooth

The Solution:
A silver (or amalgam) filling is 80% silver/tin alloy and small amount of mercury.   After tooth decay is removed and cleaned, this grey coloured material is packed into the tooth and shaped.

Advantages:
Silver fillings have been used for more than 125 years.   Their biggest advantage is that they are quickly placed, making them relatively inexpensive.   They are also very durable.

Disadvantages:
Silver fillings do not bond (stick) to the tooth structure.   This requires the preparation to be “undercut” creating a chamber that is smaller at the surface of the tooth and wider inside.   This undercut keeps the filling from falling out of the tooth.   The problem is that the creation of this undercut requires the removal of more tooth structure.   This weakens the tooth and predisposes it to fracture when biting into hard items.   Since fillings will break down from normal wear, they will eventually need to be replaced, and this will require the removal of even more healthy tooth structure.

Cosmetically silver fillings are poor.   The amalgam generally oxidizes in the oral environment turning it grey or black.

Alternatives:
Composite (white) fillings are an excellent alternative for small to medium restorations, limiting the removal of healthy tissue and posing no known environment risk.   In cases of extensive decay, or tooth damage crowns are a much better long term restoration.