Today there are more choices for restorative materials than at any time in the past. Dental amalgam, also known as silver fillings, is one choice for teeth in the back of the mouth that has been in use for around 150 years. Amalgam is a metal alloy that contains silver, tin, copper, and mercury. Amalgam lasts a long time and is less expensive than other materials such as tooth-colored composites, porcelain, or gold.
Amalgam is durable, is not as sensitive to moisture as many other materials, and can be placed in less time than other materials. This makes it a good choice for children and people with special needs who may have difficulty staying open or still during treatment.
Amalgam does have some drawbacks. Amalgam fillings are not natural looking, and this may be a significant issue if the tooth being restored is in an area that shows when speaking/smiling. Another disadvantage is that an amalgam may require the removal of more tooth structure than a tooth-colored composite, for example.
Is amalgam safe?
Silver fillings have been used successfully for around 150 years, but you may wonder about the mercury content in this filling material. When mercury combines with the other metals it forms a stable and safe “amalgam” material. There is more than one form of mercury. There is methylmercury, elemental mercury, and inorganic mercury. Methylmercury, or organic mercury, is the form of mercury that can accumulate in water sources and be absorbed by the fish we eat. If you ever eat canned tuna, you have been exposed to methylmercury. Methylmercury has been linked to various systemic effects. Dental amalgam does not contain methylmercury, but rather elemental mercury. Methylmercury is absorbed through the digestive tract while elemental mercury is absorbed through the lungs from vapor created while chewing. This vapor, while it does exist, is measured in parts per billion, so exposure is very small.
Some people, of course, may be sensitive to some of the ingredients in dental amalgam—mercury, silver, copper, and tin. If there is a sensitivity to these materials, then another material should be chosen for restorations.
Over the course of my career amalgam has been used less and less as other more esthetic materials become available and the demand for more natural appearing restorations increases. Based on the available scientific evidence so far, my opinion is that there is still a place for dental amalgam where finances and patient management are more important than esthetic concerns.
Your safety and your health are our primary concerns. That is the reason we exist as a practice
. If you have concerns, we would be glad to discuss those. If you would like to do some research on your own, I would suggest beginning with the ADA article found at www.mouthhealthy.org
and type “amalgam” in the search box. This gives a good overview and has some great links to other science-based organizations.
Smiling is everyone’s best feature.
We honestly mean that. A smile brightens everyone’s features. But, what if you’re self-conscious of your smile? Maybe your teeth aren’t as white as you want them to be. Or perhaps, the teeth look a bit worn down. These might be signs that the teeth have some erosion. (Cue dramatic music—dun dun dun!) Is there any hope for your smile? Of course! Keep reading to find out how.
First off, what does erosion of the teeth mean?
Erosion is the wearing down of the tooth’s enamel. It can be caused by acid erosion and physical erosion. Acid erosion can be a result of acidic foods and beverages and stomach acid (i.e. heartburn). Reference 1 Physical erosion can be caused by harsh and abrasive brushing and grinding of the teeth (aka bruxism). Reference 2
There are a variety of signs to look out for to determine whether you might have erosion.
You might have erosion of the teeth if you experience sensitivity to hot and/or cold foods. If your teeth don’t look like they have corners, and they have a more rounded appearance then you might have erosion. If your teeth look discolored or even start to look discolored, you might have erosion. Other symptoms include dents and/or cracks in the teeth. Reference 3
If you suspect that your teeth are eroded, there are a few things that you can do on your own to prevent any further damage to your smile.
- When eating and drinking acidic foods–such as, wine, candy, or soda—you can reduce the effect of acid on your teeth by drinking water with your food. It rinses away the acids, so they don’t sit on the enamel for very long. Reference 1
- Make sure that you choose a toothbrush with soft bristles. A soft toothbrush is sufficient to clean your teeth without being overly harsh on your enamel. Reference 2
- Wait, at least, 30 minutes after eating or drinking to brush your teeth. Your enamel is softened by food and drink, and if your teeth are already eroded, you want to protect the enamel that’s left. So don’t brush the enamel away. Wait for 30 minutes to get out that toothbrush. Reference 1
- If you have acid reflux (aka GERD), schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to see what can be done to treat it. Stomach acid is uncomfortable for you, so think about how unpleasant it is for your teeth, too. You’ll feel better for treating the acid reflux, and your teeth will thank you, too.
Don’t stop with the above steps, though.
It is imperative that you see your dentist to treat the erosion if you already have it. Regular dental appointments will definitely help your dentist detect any possible signs of erosion so that it doesn’t worsen. He can also offer options to treat the causes of erosion. For example, if you experience bruxism, we offer some options to treat that. If you are concerned about your teeth looking worn down because of erosion, Dr. McVey can offer different options to improve their appearance.
Your smile doesn’t have to hide if your teeth have been worn down due to erosion.
This can be prevented by some of the actions that are listed above. But, if your smile is already suffering from a worn down appearance, there are options to treat and correct it. We’re more than happy to help you when you’re ready. We’re always ready to make your smile the best that it can be.
Advances in dental care sometimes border on the miraculous.
Not so very long ago the thought of being able to replace missing teeth with something permanent without requiring major work to the adjacent teeth seemed like the stuff of science fiction. But today, not only is this possible but it is a routine, every day procedure that has restored thousands of people to more attractive smiles, better chewing, and improved quality of life!
Missing a tooth or teeth can be embarrassing…
Especially if the missing tooth shows! This can lead to self-consciousness in social situations. And this can definitely have a negative impact on relationships and overall satisfaction with life. Missing teeth can also affect the ability to chew, and it may no longer be possible to enjoy some foods that have always brought pleasure in the past. A missing tooth can also cause the teeth around it to shift or move into the space left by the missing tooth and this can lead to both cosmetic and chewing problems. Once a tooth is lost the bone in that area begins to be lost. This can create a major problem for denture patients because as the bone is lost there is less and less to hold a denture and that means very inefficient chewing and, many times, chronic problems with sore spots.
Whether a single tooth is missing or all the teeth are missing, dental implants, in most instances, can successfully address all of the above issues. And with recent advances in 3 dimensional x-rays and digital impressions, often an implant can be extremely accurately placed without an incision or sutures. Most patients report that having an implant placed is easier than having a tooth removed.
Dental implants are a wonderful option for:
- replacing missing teeth
- restoring the ability to chew beloved foods
- and to get your smile back!
3 Articles that Tell You How to Maintain a Healthy Mouth During the Sugar-Filled Holidays
The Holiday season is upon us, along with its many traditions. Exchanging presents. Family gatherings. The annual office Christmas party. Singing Christmas carols. Gathering around the holiday feast. It’s that last tradition that I’d like to concentrate on. You can protect your dental health over the holidays while enjoying the rich foods, sweet treats, and indulgent drinks that accompany the festive meal.
It isn’t necessary to miss out on that Christmas cookie or skip that eggnog. But it is good for more than your waistline to make sure that you’re not eating too much; it’s also good for your teeth. Everything in moderation, right? Along with not over indulging and making sure that you brush and floss, we’ve collected some information and articles to help keep your teeth happy amidst the holiday feasting:
- Even though it may seem obvious to point out ways to prevent cavities, still it’s worth restating. This article reminds us of the easy steps anybody can do to take care of our teeth during the holidays and beyond. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/plaque-causes#2
- In case the articles on sugar and alcohol consumption isn’t enough to convince you to take care of your teeth this holiday season, here are some facts about how your oral health reflects your overall health, best practices for brushing, etc. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-your-teeth#3
- The dentists at Restorative and Aesthetic Dental Associates in Portland, Maine discuss the effects of alcohol consumption and cigarette smoke on your teeth. While the holiday they’re referring to in this article is St. Patrick’s Day, their wise words are applicable no matter the time of year. They also offer some tips on how to maintain a happy, healthy mouth. http://www.dentistswholisten.com/blog/2014/03/11/how-alcohol-and-cigarettes-affect-your-teeth/
The take away: It’s definitely okay to indulge in your favorite treats this Christmas. Just make sure to give your mouth some loving care to make sure that your mouth loves you back–with good oral health that is.
In case you need something a bit more fun, here is George Strait’s rendition of “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”