CNRI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CNRI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Dental fillings. Close-up of amalgam fillings in a patient's molars and pre-molars. Fillings are used to fill the spaces left when parts of the tooth affected by dental caries are drilled away. Caries is the decay and crumbling of the teeth. It is caused by the bacteria in plaque, a substance which covers the surface of unclean teeth. The bacteria break down sugar in the mouth, producing an acid which progressively destroys the teeth. Amalgam is an alloy of mercury, silver, tin, and copper.
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