Despite our best efforts, most patients in our practice have had at least one cavity and filling in their lives, and if you are in your thirties or older, chances are your fillings were made of metal. Recently these fillings have become a controversial topic in the health press.
This material, known as “amalgam,” is actually a combination of silver, tin, copper, zinc, and – at the top of all the controversy – mercury. Actually, they are over 50% mercury by volume.
Many of us remember being introduced to mercury in an elementary school science class. As the only metal that is liquid at room temperature, it was always fun when the teacher showed us how an actual metal can flow inside a tube. But drop the tube or break a mercury filled thermometer and look out! As a toxic poison it had to be cleaned up with extreme precaution.
So if mercury is so dangerous, what the heck is it doing in your mouth? While metal amalgam fillings do give off small amounts of mercury vapor, most researchers, including The American Dental Association Council On Scientific Affairs, have concluded that unless there is a specific allergy these types of fillings pose no personal health risk.
But visit our office today and you will find that we recommend doing “fillings” (also known as “dental restorations”) with other materials. Why? There are many reasons. Here are just a few.

1) Expansion and contraction. This is why we haven’t placed an amalgam in a patient for over 15 years. Ever have trouble removing the lid on a jar? Run the lid under some hot water and it pops right off. Why? The heat causes the metal lid to expand slightly. Well, the same thing happens with an amalgam (metal) filling. And years of expansion and contraction from eating hot and cold foods can damage the tooth and the restoration. Choose a more modern material and go have that ice cream and coffee. Yum!!
2) Beauty. There is no doubt about it – silver fillings are not very attractive. The modern materials we use these days are tooth colored ones, so only your dental team needs to know that your beautiful smile once contained a few cavities. This is one of the best tools in our cosmetic dentistry toolbox!!!
3) Bonding. While a traditional filling is simply wedged into your tooth, making it more prone to breakage, most of the more modern materials actually adhere to the tooth itself. This usually means that less healthy tooth needs to be removed in order to perform a proper restoration, and these materials are less prone to “leaks” where decay and bacteria can easily form at the junction of the tooth and restoration. It also means that there are many more situations where we can do painless dentistry without having to get our patients numb.

At Dillon Family Dentistry, it is our goal to help you prevent cavities and have a healthy mouth and beautiful smile. But should you need treatment, please be sure to discuss your options with Dr. Harriet. She only uses the best, most modern materials so that you can experience a lifetime of dental health. If you have any questions, please give us a call at 610-525-5497.