Teeth are a remarkably strong part of the human body, but they are put under extreme pressure every day. Sometimes, a tooth becomes unable to withstand constant grinding and sugar-laden products. This is where restorative dental hygienists can step in to re-strengthen teeth, and help clients continue enjoying their favourite foods.
Dental amalgam is often the mixture used during filling procedures. It’s a durable solution to dental problems, but some safety concerns are consistently raised about its use. Professionals have the expertise to put clients at ease about such worries, so here’s a guide to help you understand the value of amalgam in a dental practice.
Dental Amalgam Is Commonly Used After Restorative Dental Hygiene School
Students completing restorative hygiene training know that failure to thwart harmful bacteria in the mouth could lead to the development of dental cavities. Dark spots may be visible on the affected tooth, or x-rays can be used to discover problems at an earlier stage. That’s why it’s important to replace cavities using dental amalgam, thus relieving the pain being suffered by the client.
Amalgam, often called silver fillings, is a mixture of metals which has been a cornerstone of dental care for well over a century. The primary components are silver, mercury, tin, and copper, which creates a strong and long-lasting filling. Unfortunately the silver colour can be unappealing to some clients, who may seek less distinctive fillings instead.
Nevertheless, dental amalgam remains popular in the dental profession due to its strength and value for money. It’s particularly common for back teeth, which need to be especially robust when chewing tough foods.
Skepticism About the Safety of Mercury Used in Dental Amalgam
Mercury can have damaging health effects, but dental amalgam uses such a small quantity of the element that clients shouldn’t have any concerns. Mercury is used because it creates a soft compound when mixed with an alloy powder. This makes it easier for the restorative dental hygienist to apply, and it also becomes a tough substance when dry.
Very small amounts of mercury are released as amalgam wears down, but it’s still less than the amount which people are exposed to during their daily lives from air, drinking water, and food. Health Canada estimates that the average person, aged between 20 and 59 years old, absorbs nine millionths of a gram of mercury per day, and only a third of that intake is contributed by dental amalgam.
Some precautions are however needed when dealing with pregnant women. Detrimental health effects associated with mercury still haven’t been discovered in these cases, but Health Canada has said that common sense should prevail. This means it’s often best practice to avoid use of amalgam until after pregnancy, unless it’s a dental emergency.
Amalgam Fillings Can Usually Be Applied During a Single Dental Visit
Once it has been determined that dental amalgam is required, a drill is used to remove the tooth decay. Grads of restorative dental hygiene school know that safety precautions are needed during the amalgam mixing process, because of the potential exposure to pure mercury.
The mixture is usually contained in special capsules which separate the powder and liquid mercury. Once mixed together in the capsule, the mercury is no longer toxic and the amalgam is then placed in the tooth. Special equipment is then used to shape the filling so that it feels like a natural tooth. The process is usually carried out during a single appointment, so it’s a remedy which quickly improves the wellbeing of the client.
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