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Dental amalgam has been used to fill teeth for a very long time. They are made of a mix of mercury (about 50%) with silver, tin and copper, and tend to last a long time. However, in recent times amalgam or ‘mercury’ fillings have become unpopular for a few reasons:
Cracking of teeth: dental amalgam expands and contracts much quicker than a natural tooth, which can lead to stress fractures within the tooth. These cracks can extend through the nerve of a tooth or can extend under the gum line, both of which can be difficult to fix.
Colour: amalgam fillings are an unattractive due to their silver colour and can make the teeth appear dark in general, as they "rust" into the tooth.
Health concerns: some people are concerned about the presence of metals in the amalgam and the impact this can have of an individual’s health.
Modern materials: Resin adhesive dentistry uses tooth coloured filling material called resin, that is similar in strength and much more attractive.
The decision to replace your dental amalgams should not be taken lightly, as there are a number of considerations that you need to keep in mind. The biggest consideration is replacement material, and there are two main options:
1. Resin Fillings
Resin fillings are also known as composite. As soon as the amalgam is removed, your dentist will layer the resin into your tooth, setting it with a blue curing light. This bonding strengthens the tooth and offers a little protection from fracture. Resin does well at small to medium fillings, but can show some wear if the filling is very wide and under intense pressure, just like amalgam. Other options are better suited to larger fillings.
2. Porcelain Fillings
Porcelain is a very hard wearing structure, with the ability to replace fillings of any size. Most porcelain fillings or crowns are made after digital scans in a dental laboratory, and then later bonded to the tooth. Porcelain is very strong and is used when large sections of tooth need to be replaced. Porcelain can also be used to make a crown (which cover the entire remaining tooth structure).
Cost of amalgam removal
Pricing for the removal and replacement of amalgam fillings is typically charged on a case-by-case basis as it is dependent on a number of factors. These include the number of fillings to replace, the size of the fillings and whether damage has been caused to the tooth. Another important price consideration is whether you are opting for composite resin or porcelain fillings. Typically resin fillings are considered general dental treatment by health funds, whereas porcelain fillings are considered major dentistry by insurance.
‘Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.’
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