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Q: I’m worried about the safety of my old mercury-based fillings. Can I get these replaced with a mercury-free version?
A: Thanks to technological advances, dentists and patients today have several choices when it comes to selecting materials to fill cavities. Among the choices are natural tooth-colored materials such as resin-based composite fillings and more traditional dental fillings such as those made of metal amalgam. The advent of new materials for fillings, such as composite resin, has been beneficial, especially in terms of aesthetics and strength. Composite resin is a mixture of plastic and powdered glass that mimics the natural appearance of the tooth. Composite resin fillings can be used to make cosmetic improvements to your teeth, such as changing the color of your teeth, restoring decayed teeth, repairing chipped teeth, replacing existing fillings, closing gaps between the teeth, and making teeth appear more even. One benefit of tooth-colored resin fillings is that they look more aesthetically pleasing since they match your natural tooth color and appearance. Also, less drilling is required, so not as much tooth
structure needs to be removed. Composite fillings bond to the tooth giving it greater strength, which helps prevent breaks. Most importantly, composites are mercury-free. Mercury in metal or amalgam fillings is viewed by some as toxic. Amalgam fillings are not uncommon as many dentist in the past used the mercury-based material as a constant. However, many people are electing to have existing amalgam fillings replaced due to breakdown of the material as well as the mercury that they contain. Other than composite fillings, a porcelain restoration is the only other option when replacing amalgam fillings.