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Monday 9:00am - 6:00pm

Tuesday -Thursday
8:00am - 5:00pm

Friday 8:00am - 12:00pm

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Monday 9:00am - 5:00pm

Tuesday -Thursday
8:00am - 5:00pm

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Phone: 989-773-3560

900 E Bellows St, Mt Pleasant, MI 48858


Make Amalgam Go the Way of the Telegram

Tooth FillingWhile the word “amalgam” sounds like some sort of puzzle you’ll find in the Detroit Free Press Entertainment section, the stuff’s actually been finding a home in hundreds of millions of teeth for over 150 years.

Dental amalgam.

Way up in Mount Pleasant, Dr. Egger’s been using it, too. But the increasing quality and strength of composite resins are giving the old king of the filling hill, amalgam, a run for its money.

What is dental amalgam?

Dental amalgam is a dental filling material that has been used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay since the 1800s. When you consider all the teeth that have amalgam fillings in them, you’re likely to exclaim, “Holy bicuspid, Batman.”

Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals consisting of liquid (elemental) mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper. Approximately 50% of dental amalgam is elemental mercury. The chemical properties of elemental mercury allow it to react with and bind together with silver/copper/tin alloy particles to form an amalgam.

Who knew you had the makings of a mine in Cripple Creek, Colorado in your teeth? But there’s one reason amalgam has been so popular — strength. Amalgam fillings are very durable and can last for decades. That’s an important thing because every time you have to replace a filling, dentists like Dr. Egger have to remove a little more of the healthy tooth to make room for the filling.

People think of these fillings as “silver” fillings because they are a silver color. But they are more elemental mercury than anything.

Mixing your filling

When Dr. Egger places an amalgam filling, he first removes all the decayed tooth material. Once this is all gone, he shapes the tooth to make it friendly for the amalgam to be placed. Next, he mixes the powdered alloy with the liquid mercury to form amalgam putty. This soft amalgam putty is then placed and shaped in the prepared cavity where it rapidly hardens into a solid filling.

Composite resin to the rescue

Some people get freaked out when they realize they’re getting mercury put into their mouth. But it’s really not a big deal. Yes, elemental mercury does release very low levels of vapor that can then be inhaled and absorbed by the lungs. But the FDA has long studied this stuff and found that dental amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children over the age of six. It’s not like you’re a fish in the bottom of the Detroit River!

Despite being basically safe, amalgam fillings are kind of ugly. If a person has eaten one too many Snickers bars and has a mouth full of fillings, it can look like an episode of Bonanza with a vein of silver ore on their molars.

In recent years, more and more dentists and patients have opted to use composite resin for fillings. Composite resin is a mix of tooth-colored plastic and glass, so when placed it is virtually invisible in the tooth. The problem has been that composite hasn’t been as strong as amalgam, kind of like Captain America vs. Superman.

But that has been changing. Recent advances have strengthened the composite material used for fillings so that it can now be used in the molars, where the bite force is pretty intense. Dr. Egger now places composite fillings much in the same way he does bonding on the teeth. He places the composite in layers and then hardens it with an LED light. The end result is a strong filling that doesn’t show the silver look of amalgam.

Hopefully you won’t need a filling anytime soon, but if you do, Dr. Egger’s ready with the latest composite resin. Call us at 989-773-3560 to make your next appointment.