While 74% of adults have at least one tooth extracted in their lifetime, a whopping 80% of adults have at least one dental filling which makes it the most common dental procedure performed at your local dental practice.
Statistics also show that the average number of fillings per person currently stands at seven. The following article will explain more about dental fillings and also delve into the hot topic of Mercury free and Mercury safe dental practices and why you should use them.
What Is A Dental Filling?
A dental filling is the most common form of treatment for tooth cavities. It helps to restore teeth that have been partially damaged by decay or cavities back to their normal functionality and shape. Fillings also contribute to preventing further decay.
Tooth decay forms over time after exposure to starch-rich food. Acid in food and drink erodes the enamel making the core of the tooth (dentine) more susceptible to decay attack.
Dental fillings help to save a tooth suffering from damage or decay. Today, patients have a wide variety of filling options to choose from that vary in complexity and material. Knowing the different types of fillings available to you is important as it can help you make the best choice for your mouth.
Savina Dental Clinics are proud to say that we have been a mercury free and mercury safe dental clinic since 1995.
Understanding Mercury Free & Mercury Safe Dental Practices
Why Some Dentists Are Mercury Free Practices
While mercury amalgam (silver) fillings are still being taught in Dental schools around the world and also while international dental associations (such as the American Dental Association) state these fillings are safe to use, over 50% of dentists worldwide are now removing mercury amalgam dental fillings from their practice.
This is due to more frequent questioning about the safety of mercury vapour being released when the fillings are are placed and when they are removed. Mercury can also be released when fillings age and start deteriorating. This has lead to ongoing arguments on both sides of the controversy and has rightly encouraged dentists to reevaluate what they were taught during dental training.
Therefore it is up to individual dentists whether they want to be a mercury-free clinic or not. In fact, there are some European countries (Norway, Sweden & Denmark) that have fully banned the use of amalgam fillings in dental practices.
Dentists who now refuse to offer this type of filling firmly believe this is in the best interest of their patients. While there is no conclusive proof of amalgam fillings causing heavy metal poisoning, there is proof that unsafe removal of these fillings can cause severe side effects due to the possibility of excessive toxic mercury vapour being released.
Becoming both a Mercury Free and Mercury Safe dental practice is a decision each dentist must make. However in saying that, it is the patient’s decision whether or not they want their current mercury amalgam fillings removed and replaced. This is a choice only you the patient can make.
What Does A Mercury Free Dental Practice Mean?
A mercury-free dental practice is a practice that does not offer the option of mercury amalgam fillings (also known as silver fillings).
What Does A Mercury Safe Dental Practice Mean?
A mercury safe dental practice is one where the dentist is fully aware that the unsafe removal of amalgam fillings can lead to a significant amount of toxic mercury vapour being released. By fully understanding this, they have the specialised equipment, training, experience, and skills necessary to minimise the patient’s (as well as the clinic’s staff’s) exposure to this toxic vapour during the removal process.
If you want to ensure protection from excessive amounts of toxic mercury exposure, it is imperative that you use not just a mercury-free dental practice but a mercury safe dental practice.
Savina Dental Clinic is proud to say that we are both a mercury free and mercury safe dental practice. We have developed a protocol, following closely the guidelines of the British Society for Mercury-free dentistry, for the safe removal of amalgam fillings. Patients are also prepared for this procedure during the two weeks prior to their appointment. You can use our new free e-Consultation service.
Which type of fillings we prefer to use?
Composite (plastic) Resin Fillings
Composite fillings are made of acrylic resin and plastic. Composite fillings lifespan is on average 5-7 years but can be more if the fillings are not too large, depending on their situation on the tooth surface (chewing surface fillings last least) as well as the material used.
Another type of safe white filling is ‘Glass Ionomer Cements’ – these are self-adhesive, fluoride-releasing fillings that are most suitable for non-chewing surface fillings where aesthetics are not of exceptional importance. They are also used in children because they are relatively easier to place.
- They can be made to match the natural colour of your existing teeth
- They are more aesthetically pleasing compared to amalgam fillings giving you a more natural looking smile
- Requires only a single dentist visit
- Needs less drilling compared to amalgam fillings
- They can bond directly to the teeth
- No mercury used
- The material they are made from is not durable
- It does not last long compared to amalgam fillings
- Composites are very technique-sensitive – they only shrink if the bonding procedure is not carried out carefully and if the cavity is not kept absolutely dry during the procedure
- May not work when filling certain cavities
- Recommended as a small filler or for teeth that do not handle bulk chewing action
Other Non Mercury Filling Alternatives
Porcelain fillings are a form of indirect fillings. They require more than one dental appointment to be completely fixed and are commonly used for crowns.
- They look like actual teeth giving you a more natural smile
- They resist staining, wear and tear and maintain their silky smooth surface for years
- They are much stronger compared to other materials
- They are relatively pricey
- They take a longer time to install
- Require at least two dental visits to complete
Gold fillings are some of the most durable and long-lasting tooth filling options available to you. With good dental care, they can last anywhere between 15 to 30 years. While not common, this is also an option available at some dentists when requested.
- They are more attractive and visually pleasing to metal fillings
- Gold is Non-corrosive
- They are the most expensive tooth fillings
- Takes a long time to install as they are an indirect filling
- They are not tooth coloured
What Steps Are Involved in Filling a Tooth?
Step 1: Local Anesthesia
At the beginning of the procedure, your dentist may administer a local anaesthesia to numb the area around the affected tooth.
Step 2: Tooth decay removal
After that, your dentist will cut through your enamel using special tools such as a drill to remove the decay in your tooth. After that, they will shape the space left after removing the decay to prepare it for filling.
Step 3: Etching
If you have a bonded filling, your tooth will be etched using an acid gel before the filling is placed.
Step 4: Resin Application
For particular types of fillings, your dentist may need to layer the tooth with resin and harden it using a bright light to make it stable.
Step 5: Polishing
After the filling has correctly been placed, the dentist will polish your tooth to give it a perfect shine.
What Should You Expect After a Dental Filling?
After your filling procedure is complete, expect to feel numbness on your lips, cheeks and gums for a few hours. This should last up to when the anaesthesia wears off.
How Long Should a Tooth Hurt After a Filling
After a dental filling, your tooth may become more sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks. You may also feel some discomfort before you adjust to the new filling. However, your pain should fade away after a day or two after the filling. If your pain persists for more than three days, consult with your dentist.
What Type of Filling is Suitable for Young Children?
Children are also susceptible to cavities and tooth decay, especially due to their love for sweet foods. Although a healthy diet is critical to good oral health, keeping track of some sweets at school or with friends may be difficult. Hence, if tooth decay occurs, the best thing you can do for your child is a filling treatment to restore the health of their teeth. We use composite fillings for young children at Savina Dental Clinics.
How Do I Know if I Need a Filling?
The best and sure way of finding out if you need a filling is by having your teeth checked by a dentist. Your doctor may use a small mirror to check each tooth when performing the oral test. Some of the most common symptoms of cavities include:
- Pain when chewing
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tooth discoloration
How Long is A filling supposed to last?
- Composite – These are the most fragile fillings lasting for approximately 5-7 years
- Porcelain fillings – Last anywhere between 15- 20 years
- Gold Fillings – These last the longest at about 15-30 years
Have You Tried Our Free e-Consultation Service?
If you are worried about a dental related issue or have questions about any of the treatments we offer, please contact us using our new free e-Consultation service. One of our highly-qualified team will respond to your query as soon as possible. Our e-Consultation service is live 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday.
If you would like to schedule an in-person consultation at Savina Dental, please book your appointment using this form.
Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.
Dr Joseph Xuereb
Dental & Implant Surgeon. Principal
Savina Dental Clinics