Procedures

What’s In An Amalgam Filling And Do Dentists Still Use Them?

It’s commonly known that amalgam fillings (also called silver fillings) contain mercury, hence the debate about whether they are safe to use or not.  But what other ingredients are in an amalgam filling?

What’s In An Amalgam Filling?

When an amalgam filling is placed in the tooth, it is soft and can be molded to the right shape by the dentist.  The filling will begin to harden within a couple of minutes and will reach its full strength after a few hours.  In order for amalgam to have the correct consistency, it is made up of a number of different metals.  Amalgam fillings typically contain 40-50% mercury with the remaining 50-60% being made up of metal powder.  The metal in this powder is a combination of:

  • Tin
  • Silver
  • Copper
  • Indium
  • Zinc.

Do Dentists Still Use Amalgam Fillings?

Many dentists still use amalgam today despite its unsightly metallic appearance.  The reason for this is that amalgam is an extremely strong material.  It’s not unusual for amalgam fillings to last more than 10 or 20 years, compared to a composite filling which will only last for about half that amount of time.  Nowadays, amalgam fillings are only used towards the back of the mouth where they can’t be seen and where the extra strength of a metal filling is needed due to biting pressure.

Mercury fillings are banned in some countries including Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.  This is mostly due to concerns that the excess mercury has on the environment if it ends up in the sewers instead of being disposed of in the correct manner.

Conclusion

Mercury fillings are still used today by many dentists all around the world.  Amalgam is a cost-effective and strong material to use to fill teeth.  They also tend to last much longer than their composite resin counterparts.  Even though a metal filling may be stronger, many people still choose to have composite fillings placed due to their aesthetic appearance.