Holistic Dentistry Blog
What replaces mercury amalgam fillings?
Removing amalgam or mercury fillings is one of the most popular services in our practice. It seems many Irish people are hearing that mercury is a hazardous substance, and the news that there are plans to phase down the use of it in dentistry through the UN’s Minamata Treaty on Mercury.
One of the first questions we are asked is “so what replaces these mercury fillings I have?” Often Irish people are rarely given a choice by their dentist on what substance to use in the fillings, because amalgam is a cheaper substance for dentists to use. As a result, often they’re not even aware there is an alternative.
Composite resin fillings
There is an alternative, and it is known as composite resin or white fillings. Besides the benefit of not containing mercury, they also have aesthetic benefits as they are pale and tooth-coloured, unlike the ugly, dark amalgam.
Composite resin is synthetic, made up of a mixture of powdered glass and plastic resin. One advantage of these fillings is they require less tooth structure to be removed than with amalgam fillings.
The composite resin also bonds to the tooth giving it greater strength and integrity, and this decreases the chance of the tooth fracturing in the future. This is quite different to the amalgam, which just fills a hole.
White fillings are becoming more widely used by dentists as the nature of the composite has improved greatly in the last few decades.
The process of applying composite resin fillings
The resin is applied when soft, then it hardens when exposed to blue light and becomes the solid filling. The light penetrates just a few millimetres into the resin, so it is applied carefully in layers that are hardened one by one.
When this is completed, we file and shape the filling, and correct or adjust it to the bite. The finished composite resin filling should be aesthetically pleasing, strong and durable. It should last years, and most importantly, it will not leak a toxin into the body during that time!