Do you know what word means? At Gentle Dental, we may use the term “caries,” but you may know it be another term, tooth decay. It’s the most common form of oral disease known to man, dental caries.
You probably think of them as “cavities.” But that term doesn’t really fit what’s going on. That term probably came from the fact that once the dentist cleans out the decay, what is left is a cavity. And that cavity can’t be left open, as food debris and bacteria would become lodged in there. It needs to be filled.
Our Gentle Dental dentists address and fill dental caries every day. While we still place silver amalgam fillings, we’re moving away from those fillings to tooth-colored options.
Mercury in your mouth
Most people think the silver fillings in their molars are, well, made of silver. Actually, they’re not silver; they consist of mostly mercury! Yes, that is disconcerting to many people. Silver fillings are made of silver amalgam. To make them, dentists mix mercury (50% of the eventual filling) with a powder comprised of silver, copper, tin, or zinc (usually a combination of some or all of those). There really isn’t any potential for harm from the mercury in your amalgam fillings. They’ve been studied by the FDA and they’ve been used since the 1800s. Still, most people don’t like the idea of being like a fish at the bottom of a polluted waterway in Newark.
Disadvantages of amalgam fillings
Beyond their grey appearance, silver amalgam fillings have other drawbacks. The edges of the filling can wear down, become weak, or break. This creates an environment where decay can take hold again. Also, with age the mercury, silver, and other metals in amalgam fillings expand and contract. This can make the filling split, or it can even crack a tooth. Plus, they can corrode, leak, and stain your adjacent teeth and your gums.
That’s why the world is moving to tooth-colored fillings. At Gentle Dental, we place composite resin fillings and ceramic/porcelain fillings. Both are more expensive than amalgam, but they are virtually invisible when in the tooth. Composite resin has been improving year by year with its durability, so the lifespan of composite fillings is getting closer to amalgam. Plus, composite resin fillings create a tight, superior fit to the tooth. And, unlike amalgam fillings, where a part of the healthy tooth needs to be removed to make room for the filling, Resin composite fillings can be placed into teeth that have lost much of their tooth structure.
If decay has unfortunately invaded a tooth, you have options for the filling you choose. Do you have sensitivity in a tooth? That could be a sign that decay has made its way into the enamel. Call us at Gentle Dental, (732) 549-5660, and set up an appointment.