Are Amalgam Fillings Risky to Life?
Have a tooth that needs filling? Your dentist may have cleaned your decayed tooth and filled it with an amalgam filling. You may have heard many rumors about mercury-containing amalgam fillings and wondered if they are safe?
Don’t worry, we’re here to put your mind at ease and answer some of your questions about amalgam fillings and their safety.
What is Amalgam?
Amalgam was once one of the most common materials used to fill cavities formed by dental caries. Also known as “silver fillings”, amalgam fillings give the impression of silver in appearance but not in composition. Amalgam fillings are less common than they were in the past, as many dentists now use tooth-colored materials to fill cavities and restore teeth. However, amalgam fillings are more versatile than new materials, they hold up better over time, especially on teeth that are subject to wear and tear due to pressure and chewing.
Is Amalgam Filling Safe?
Some concerns have been raised about the elemental mercury used in amalgam in the past. As of 2018, the use of amalgam fillings has been restricted with new regulations in various countries and it is no longer allowed to be used in patients under the age of 15. However, this is only an environmental measure aimed at reducing mercury contamination of the environment. Millions of people have amalgam fillings and there is no evidence that they pose a direct health risk.
Why is mercury used in amalgam fillings?
Although referred to as silver fillings, amalgam fillings are actually made from a combination of metals, making it the most effective and popular filling material used in dentistry over the past 150 years. The combination includes silver, mercury, tin and copper. Sometimes amalgam may also contain small amounts of zinc, indium or palladium.
Why is mercury used? You might think. Mercury is used in amalgam because it helps the filling material to be flexible. When mixed with an alloy powder, mercury forms a compound that is soft enough to be mixed and pressed against the tooth. Another good thing is that it hardens quickly and can withstand the forces of biting and chewing for many years.
Is Mercury Safe to Use in Amalgam Fillings?
Because mercury is a naturally occurring metal in the environment, everyone is exposed to mercury in some way, whether through the air, drinking water, soil or food. Therefore, some contact with mercury through amalgam is not much different from other types of daily exposure.
As with most substances, the damage of mercury to the body is related to the amount ingested. Very low levels of mercury do not cause any adverse effects. However, higher levels of mercury are known to cause few adverse symptoms. With amalgam, a minimal amount of mercury in the form of vapor can be released and absorbed into the body as the filling wears off.
It is reasonable to question whether it is safe to put amalgam in your mouth. However, there is no evidence that amalgam fillings are anything to worry about because the low level of mercury absorbed in them is not sufficient to produce any toxic effects. In fact, studies have shown that the amount of mercury you may be exposed to from amalgam fillings is less than most people are exposed to in their daily environment or the food they eat.
Are There Alternatives to Amalgam Filling?
If you want to explore alternatives to amalgam filling, your dentist will enlighten you on this issue.
If you want to avoid amalgam filling completely, you can get information from your doctor about other materials such as composite filling and porcelain to restore your teeth.
Since the composite filling is a tooth-colored material, it is visually much more aesthetic.
If you have a known allergy to mercury, if you are exposed to high levels of mercury every day, or if you are pregnant, inform your dentist before having your treatment. Being transparent with your physician is the best way to create the best treatment plan for you.
Should You Replace Your Amalgam Fillings?
Amalgam fillings should be removed when they are worn, broken, or rotten beneath the filling. If you are worried about your existing amalgam fillings and have aesthetic concerns, you can discuss your options with your dentist.