What is a Silver Tooth Filling? Benefits, Procedure & Cost

Silver tooth fillings have been one of the most commonly used dental materials for restoring the tooth structure. These filings are durable, rigid, and bond well with the tooth structure. One of the most common silver filling used in dentistry today is an amalgam.

Like any other type of tooth filling, silver tooth filling is typically used to restore decayed and damaged tooth surfaces. However, unlike tooth-colored fillings, silver fillings require extensive tooth preparation.

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While there are several benefits of silver tooth filling, one of the most significant disadvantages is that silver tooth fillings cannot be used to restore teeth that require esthetics. Additionally, there have been a lot of concerns about the safety of amalgam. Despite all speculations, amalgam is one of the best silver tooth fillings.

Today’s article will highlight the benefits and disadvantages of silver tooth filling. Furthermore, we will discuss the safety of silver tooth filling.

What is a silver tooth filling?

Silver tooth filling, clinically known as amalgam is the most popular tooth filling material that is often used to fill tooth cavities typically caused by dental caries. A silver amalgam filling is also one of the oldest and primitive types of tooth filling, which has been used for more than 150 years. (1)

As the name suggests, silver tooth filling gives a silver-like appearance because of the metallic components. such components include –

  • Powdered silver, tin, and copper
  • Liquid – elemental mercury

The mercury is used to bind the alloy particles and form a firm, durable tooth filling.

What is the procedure for the placement of silver tooth filling?

Typically, the procedure of silver tooth filling placement may include the following –

  • An extensive tooth cavity is prepared with all the resistance and retentive forms.
  • Usually, a silver tooth filling contains a powder and liquid component mixed by an amalgamator. This unit helps to combine the two elements by vibrating it at high speed.
  • Once the desired consistency is obtained, the filling is placed on the prepared tooth cavity using an amalgam carrier.
  • The filling is condensed layer by layer until it fills the cavity.
  • Once the cavity is filled, the dentists carve the filling to replicate the occlusal anatomy and remove excess of filling material from the surface.
  • Finally, the filling is burnished and polished.

What are the benefits?

Some of the benefits of silver tooth filling include –

  • Good Strength – silver tooth filling is one of the most durable restorative material placed directly on the tooth structure.
  • The relative ease of placement – silver tooth filling is relatively tolerant of moisture during placement. This is because of the property of mechanical tooth bonding.
  • Durability – silver tooth filling is an excellent choice of restorative material in important stress-bearing areas, and it lasts for several years. However, it is usually less durable than gold but much more durable than composite resin.
  • Resistance to dental caries – usually, when a silver tooth filling is placed, small corrosion occurs between the restorative material and the tooth. This reaction helps in filling microscopic voids. Moreover, it acts as a fluid-resistant coating that inhibits the growth of bacteria.
  • An economical –silver tooth filling is less expensive than gold and any other indirect restorations. It is also cheaper than tooth-colored composite resin.

What are the disadvantages?

While there are several benefits of silver tooth filling. However, it also has some disadvantages –

  • Esthetics – It is not tooth-colored. Moreover, as the filling gets old, it sometimes changes the color from silver to black.
  • Weakening of the tooth structure– usually, it has a property to expand over time, which leads to significant tooth fracture.
  • Low Setting Time – silver tooth fillings that at least 24 hours to reach its maximum strength.
  • Increased thermal sensitivity – since metal is an excellent conductor of cold and heat to the tooth’s nerve, people with silver tooth filling have a high risk of thermal sensitivity.
  • Removal of tooth structure – due to its nature of mechanical bonding, removal of healthy tooth structure is one of the requisites for adequate retention and Strength of the silver tooth filling.
  • Concerns regarding mercury toxicity and allergic reactions. (2)

Are silver tooth fillings safe?

The safety concerns for silver amalgam filling has been a debate since the time it was introduced as a restorative material in dentistry. Usually, silver tooth fillings, when placed in teeth or removed from the tooth, release mercury vapor. Additionally, mercury vapor is also released during chewing. Many speculations suggest that the mercury vapor released in their mouth has the potential to cause health problems at a later stage.

However, the CDC – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA – Federal Dental Association have reviewed all the scientific literature related to the mercury vapor released from silver tooth filling. And to their surprise, they have not found any scientific evidence to date that may demonstrate the risk of health problems in children and adults by the amount of mercury vapor released during placement, chewing, or even removal of silver amalgam fillings. (3) Therefore, it is one of the best and safest dental restorative material to date.

What is the cost?

As mentioned earlier, silver tooth fillings are economical and cost less than any other type of restorative material such as gold and composite. On average, the cost ranges between $50 – $150 per tooth.

Take away message

Silver tooth filling may not be ideal for restoring the front teeth that come under our smile’s esthetic zone. However, silver tooth fillings have several other benefits that make it one of the best choices of restorative materials. Some of the benefits include durability, resistance, and affordability.

A silver tooth filling is commonly known as amalgam restoration, which typically consists of alloy particles such as silver and tin mixed with elemental mercury. Most people have concerns about the mercury vapor released during placement and chewing with a silver tooth filling. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this speculation, which makes silver tooth filling safe and excellent choice for restoring posterior teeth.

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If you are thinking of getting a silver tooth filling, consult your dentist to weigh your options and choose the best restorative material.

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