Amalgam Fillings

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Amalgam Fillings

You are likely aware of what amalgam fillings are, even if you do not know their correct name. These fillings are the shiny silver ones you may have or have seen flashing in someone’s mouth. Rather than being made of silver, however, they are made of a mixture of metals called amalgam. 

Are Amalgam Fillings Safe? 

Amalgam fillings have been used for filling cavities in teeth for over 150 years and are considered safe although some people feel concerned around the mercury component. The material itself is a solid mix (alloy) of tin, copper, silver and mercury. In some parts of Europe, amalgam fillings have been banned, but this is due to environmental concerns of free mercury in waterways. When securely bound in an alloy, the mercury release is very low on a day-to-day basis – around 0.03 micrograms per day*. For comparison, a small tin of yellowfin tuna has 30 micrograms of mercury, 1000 times more than a single filling releases!  

(*E Berdouses 1, T K Vaidyanathan, A Dastane, C Weisel, M Houpt, Z Shey : Mercury release from dental amalgams: an in vitro study under controlled chewing and brushing in an artificial mouth : J Dent Res 1995 May;74(5):1185-93)

Should I Replace My Amalgam Fillings?

If there is no decay beneath the filling and you have no pain or discomfort, you do not have to rush into replacing your filling. Some patients opt to replace their fillings purely for cosmetic reasons as tooth-coloured fillings are more aesthetically pleasing. This is a discussion best had with your dentist who can help you with the pros and cons of doing this.

When Is the Right Time to Replace Amalgam Fillings?

If not pursuing a cosmetic replacement, replacement of an amalgam filling can be done when the filling begins to break down with age. This can be anywhere between 5 and 25 years depending on where the filling is located and whether you grind your teeth or bite heavily. 

Sometimes cracks develop around amalgam fillings – this is due to the shape of the cavity made by the dentist when the filling was placed and the expansion and contraction of the metal over its life when eating hot and cold things. Sometimes these cracks will cause pain on biting, and require investigation and replacement. 

Alternatively, amalgam fillings will need to be replaced if they have come loose, are causing you pain or have developed decay beneath them. 

What Other Filling Options Are There? 

Should you need to replace your filling or elect to for cosmetic reasons, there are a few options you can choose from to take its place

Composite Resin

These white fillings are made using a mix of resin and resin particles. They are non-toxic and considered very safe.  They are a durable option that can be used on front or back teeth, lasting between 3 -15 years depending on the location and size of the filling.


Porcelain fillings, also called inlays, onlays or ceramic restorations, are stronger and less prone to cracking than composite fillings. They also resist stains and if well maintained can last for a very long time. Porcelain looks incredibly natural due to its shine and ability to be custom colour matched to your existing teeth. 


Sometimes a crown will be a better option for replacing an amalgam filling due to the size of the filling or its location in the mouth. Crowns give very good structural support to the tooth they are covering and have a very long lifespan when looked after. The initial cost of a crown is higher, but if it prevents multiple fillings being placed, or stops a tooth cracking or needing root canal therapy, it can be a good investment. Each tooth and patient needs to be assessed individually by your dentist to give you the best treatment indication. Crowns can be made of porcelain, porcelain/metal mix, zirconia or gold. We are happy to discuss in depth the pros and cons of each material with you. 

Refresh Your Smile with Fresh Family Dental

If your amalgam fillings are causing you concern, whether for health or cosmetic reasons, the team at Fresh Family Dental can help. We offer a calm, friendly and professional space where you can relax and know that your smile is in expert hands. 

To book your appointment and discuss your amalgam fillings, call 07 5551 6060 today.