When Cavities Happen, Have Confidence in Your Fillings

Cavities aren't the inevitable result of eating chocolate or drinking soda pop. For good oral hygiene, brush your teeth soon afterward with a fluoride toothpaste and clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.

You also should also eat a balanced diet, limit between-meal snacks and visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.

But when your dentist does find a cavity, have it filled immediately before bigger problems occur, and rest assured that dental amalgam and human health problems are not connected.

That's the conclusion of an extensive review that considered some 950 scientific and medical studies, consulted with a panel of scientific experts and considered recommendations submitted by the public and interested parties.

The report concluded there is "insufficient evidence to support a causal relationship between mercury fillings and human health problems," including kidney or cognitive dysfunction, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's diseases, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and various non-specific complaints-except in rare instances of allergic reactions.

The report was written by an independent, nonprofit organization. It was commissioned by many federal health agencies, including the National Institute of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health Service.

"I came to this committee without a great deal of prior knowledge, opinion or bias-one way or another-about the hazards to human health of mercury-based dental amalgams," said panel member James Bruckner, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Georgia.

"After carefully reviewing dozens of medical and scientific articles," he continued, "listening to and taking part in the committee's discussions, I reached a conclusion similar to that of others on the committee, namely that there was a reasonable margin of safety between levels of metallic mercury that are released from amalgams and those levels required to cause neurotoxicity or renal toxicity."

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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What to Expect During a FILLING

  1. Local anesthesia – at the beginning of your filling procedure, you may be given local anesthesia to numb the area around the tooth.

  2. Tooth decay removal – then the dentist will cut through the enamel using a drill to remove any decay. After the dentist removes the decay, the dentist will shape the space to ready it for the filling.

  3. Etching – for a bonded filling your dentist will etch the tooth with an acid gel before placing the filling.

  4. Resin application – for certain types of fillings the dentist will layer on the resin and harden it using a bright light. This makes it strong.

  5. Polishing – after the filling has been placed, your dentist will polish the tooth.