Metal-Free Dentistry


If you’re like most people, you probably have cavities that have been filled with metal or a silver-mercury amalgam. While you probably recognize that such fillings are unattractive in your smile, you might not realize that they’re hazardous to your teeth.

Silver-mercury fillings react to temperature changes, expanding and contracting within your delicate tooth. This movement can weaken the tooth, causing it to break. It can also create a space between the tooth surface and filling that allows bacteria to enter, causing decay.

del mar dentistry del mar dentistry
Old, broken mercury fillings were replaced with beautiful, strong Porcelain onlays

Fortunately, there are metal-free fillings - composite resins and porcelain inlays and onlays - that are stronger and safer for your teeth. Best of all, they’re virtually invisible, keeping your smile looking natural and attractive.

Composite Fillings

For small cavities, we use a non-metal composite filling for restoration. White in color and enduring in strength, composite fillings offer a lasting, attractive alternative to metal. Composite fillings are made in the office and completed in one visit.

del mar dentistry del mar dentistry
Smaller areas of decay were restored with aesthetic Composite fillings

Mercury Fillings Banned

In early January 2008, the American Dental Association, (ADA), announced that as of this year, in Sweden, Denmark and Norway the use of mercury-silver, or amalgam, dental fillings has been banned. There has been much discussion about the health or environmental risks of the use of mercury fillings in those countries for some time.

However, in the USA the use of mercury in dental fillings is still considered safe by the government and the ADA. It is only in recent years that some of the better insurance companies have approved payment for alternatives to mercury-silver fillings.

An alternative to the mercury-silver fillings is a resin or composite filling. Since these fillings are tooth colored the dental insurance companies felt they were only cosmetic and therefore not covered under the policies they had written. Resin fillings are more technique sensitive and time consuming to bond into place. But, if a person is starting to get decay around a resin filling the decay can be easily seen compared to the decay starting between a black mercury filling and the white enamel.

Porcelain inlays are another alternative to fillings. The porcelain material is harder than the resin and therefore should last longer than the resin filling. These are also bonded into place and help to reinforce the tooth for strength.

Advantages of porcelain/composite restorations:
  1. The mercury-silver filling does not bond to the tooth like a porcelain/composite restorations. Hence, a mercury-silver filling weakens the teeth, making them more susceptible to breaking. Since broken teeth can be costly to restore, porcelain/composite restorations can save a lot of expense over the long run.
  2. Porcelain/composite restorations restore the natural appearance of the tooth where the mercury-silver filling can easily be seen.
  3. Teeth restored with white porcelain/composite restorations are less sensitive to hot and cold than teeth restored with amalgam, if correct techniques are used.
  4. Mercury-silver fillings require more of the tooth structure removal than porcelain/composite restorations. Especially with new cavities, the size of the hole made for the restorations can be dramatically smaller with porcelain/composite restorations.
  5. The largest advantage of a mercury-silver filling is that it is less expensive than the newer porcelain/composite restorations in the short term.

If you have mercury-silver or amalgam fillings in your mouth the chances are you will be fine. It is considered unethical for a dentist to advise a patient to have mercury fillings removed for health reasons. If a patient wants to have them removed for their own concerns or even for cosmetic reasons it is OK.

If you have questions concerning mercury fillings you should ask your dentist.


Del Mar Dental Arts Office

12750 Carmel Country Rd
Suite 213
San Diego, CA 92130

(858) 481-8107

Fifth Avenue Dental Arts Office

450 A St. Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 233-3338