Amalgam fillings are a tested and proven dental material and have been in effective use for over 100 years. There are many aspects of these metal fillings that make them excellent candidates for tooth restoration; they are durable, easy to place and have many of the same physical properties as natural tooth structure. However, they are not perfect (there are no perfect materials in dentistry). Over time, amalgams can crack, “leak” or become surrounded with decay. Furthermore, they are not as esthetically pleasing as tooth colored materials and can tarnish from silver to black very quickly.
These are some of the compelling reasons that we remove amalgam fillings at Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry. While we recommend replacement for ALL compromised fillings (both metal and tooth colored), we only replace amalgams for esthetics upon patient request. Additionally, we do not recommend removing metal fillings over concerns of mercury exposure. The long term safety of amalgam fillings and their associated mercury content is well understood and documented. Additional information can be found at http://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/amalgam or by calling our office.
The removal process is a simple procedure that parallels how we place fillings on decayed teeth. We start by removing the existing amalgam from the tooth by carefully cutting it with a high-speed handpiece (“drill”). While amalgam fillings are very safe, there is a slightly elevated risk of mercury exposure upon their removal, as the material becomes loosened and aerosolized. To counteract this, we rely on two forms of suction and isolation to prevent any of the metal from being swallowed. Typically, we pair an Isolite suction/bite block with our high speed suction to gather any stray metal.
Once the amalgam is removed, we eliminate any decay under or around the filling and reshape the tooth to better accept the new composite. Once the tooth is “prepared,” we proceed by bonding and curing in tooth colored material. After it is set, we recontour the filling to the natural shape of your teeth and adjust so it feels natural in your mouth. The entire process takes under an hour, and can be considerably shorter depending on the size and shape of the existing amalgam.
If you have any questions, or would like more information on how and why we remove amalgam fillings, please call our office. We regularly remove amalgam fillings under a number of different scenarios, and would be more than happy to walk you through the process.