Q: What are the advantages of having a tooth-colored filling over a silver filling? Is it true that silver fillings may cause health risks?
A: The composite resin (tooth-colored) fillings have come a long way in recent years. Their strength and longevity are now comparable to that of the silver fillings, but with much-enhanced esthetics. The dentist has the capability to match the filling exactly to the shade and color of your tooth such that no one else will ever know you had a cavity. Another advantage of these tooth-colored restorations is that the preparation is relatively conservative. Only decay is removed, and the filling is then bonded to the area that has been prepared.
Silver fillings do not have the same bonding capacity, and therefore rely on mechanical retention to hold the filling in place. As a result, good tooth structure is taken away to create the ideal depth and undercuts required to achieve adequate retention. Another advantage of composite restorations is that they are typically less sensitive to hot or cold, as metal tends to conduct temperature more readily. Since 1990, when “60 Minutes” ran a story on the alleged risks of dental amalgam (Silver-Mercury fillings), there has been a tremendous amount of media coverage.
Reports were made claiming that there have been miraculous “cures” for a variety of medical conditions after these types of restorations are removed, and that dental amalgam is a potential source of mercury toxicity. Mercury constitutes approximately 50% of dental amalgams, and trace amounts of mercury vapor escape in the process of chewing.
However, research conducted by the ADA (American Dental Association) and the scientific community has concluded that there are no serious health risks associated with Silver fillings, and that its removal has not been shown to have any beneficial effects for a patient’s specific medical condition. In my practice I utilize mostly the composite resin fillings, not because of health concerns with Amalgam, but rather because they are more conservative in terms of reducing tooth structure and because they are much more esthetically pleasing.