Fillings are a way to restore a tooth that has been damaged by tooth decay. Decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth convert sugar into acid, which damages the outer tooth structure, called enamel and eventually will extend inward to the dentin and if left untreated, into the pulp.
To stop the decay process, and repair the damage, the decayed part is removed, the internal tooth structure walls are shaped and replaced with filling material. The filling material, also called amalgam, starts off as a soft solid and hardens within a few minutes.
Amalgam is a combination of metals, including silver, tin copper and mercury. Amalgam has been an effective and popular filling material in dentistry for over 150 years. Amalgam, while it is not as esthetic as some of the new materials out, it is safe to use, very durable and long lasting.