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Are Amalgam Dental Fillings Safe?

I am a dentist in Mansfield and I get this question a lot. Amalgam is an alloy of mercury with any other metal. Dental Amalgam is a combination of a silver alloy powders with liquid mercury. Silver-Mercury Amalgam is an old tooth cavity filling material. In the past 200 years, dental Amalgam has been the principal and the most popular restoration material among dentists. It is low cost, easy to form or manipulate, long lasting and it has a good resistance to abrasion. 

Due to its durability and strength, Amalgam has been the best choice of filling material for decades. It has had a proven track of record and it has been an effective filling material successfully used billions of times in human teeth. 

 

Amalgam has been particularly useful in restoring large cavities at the back of the mouth where biting forces are strong. Before mixing, Amalgam is in liquid form. When Amalgam is mixed, it hardens, expands and fills the cavity space inside the tooth. In addition to its long-lasting properties. Amalgam also hardens soon enough. This property, makes Amalgam a good choice of tooth restoration material for treatments with limited available time. Examples are:

  • Placement into areas where it is hard to keep dry (for example below the gum line)
  • Children who have difficult time staying still in the dental chair

 

Waste dental amalgam is a hazardous waste material. Stored Amalgam is also classified as a hazardous material. It should be transported in containers that are not breakable. When people read these warnings about Amalgam disposal, storage and transport, they wonder whether it is safe inside their teeth? How Amalgam can be safe when it contains mercury inside? Can small amounts of mercury released as a result of chewing be toxic and affect health? 

 

We have all been warned enough about the health risks of mercury build-up in fish. How should we trust the mercury in our teeth? Well, because there are different types of Mercury. The mercury found in fish is Methyl Mercury. This type of mercury (Methyl Mercury) is formed by the action of microbes that live in the rivers, lakes and the ocean. The Mercury used in dental Amalgam is different from the poisonous Methyl Mercury found in fish. According to scientist, Mercury in the form of Amalgam alloy is a stable material. Many health organisations have endorsed the safety of Amalgam and based on scientific studies believe that dental amalgam poses no risk to the patient health. There is no scientific evidence that dental amalgam causes illness in our bodies. 

Debates on the Safety of Dental Amalgam

Nevertheless, the safety of dental Amalgam has been a point of debate for a long time. It is still controversial and contentious. Some dentists recommend their patients to change their amalgam fillings with composite fillings (white fillings). Frequent exposure of dental clinic staff to mercury vapour has been recognized as an occupational hazard (possibly when used carelessly). There has been reports that MS patients have benefited from amalgam removal. 

Over the past few decades, there has been an increased number of claims against use of dental Amalgam.  I work near the suburb of Mansfield in Queensland and I have noticed that use of dental Amalgam between Mansfield Dentists is in obvious decline. An indication of an undeniable rising concern among both dentists and patients. Since 2015 I haven’t even purchased Amalgam in my clinic. Dental Amalgam is no longer widely used. Although some health organisations like ADA are still insisting that Amalgam is safe and Amalgam-Toxicity is a scam. 

Risk of toxicity is not the only reason people prefer white fillings over silver fillings. My own sister never accepted use of Amalgam for her fillings. For aesthetic reasons, she wanted and insisted on using a white filling material, the same colour as her teeth not a dark silver colour. She wanted white filling and she wanted “a pretty white filling”. 

Notable disadvantages of Amalgam include:

  • Different from the tooth colour and aesthetically undesirable in the front teeth
  • Conducts temperatures faster than natural tooth 

The ignition of concerns about a possible toxicity of Amalgam drives some patients to request their dentists to change their Amalgam fillings with other filling materials. Patients strongly prefer the more aesthetic white fillings over Amalgam. This demand has changed the tooth preparation and filling procedures. 

Modern Dental Fillings

These days modern filling materials are available in all dental clinics. Composite resin fillings also called white fillings have replaced the old and dark silver fillings. A broken front tooth when restored correctly is hard to distinguish from other neighbouring teeth. Many patients are quite happy about the new technology. Unlike the early generations of composite fillings, the new filling materials have tooth-like qualities. They are not permanent fillings but they are natural looking and their durability is also close to a natural tooth. 

Bottom line is that the best dental filling material for your teeth is no filling at all. Maintain a good oral hygiene and regularly visit your dentist to prevent cavities as much as you can. Even with the best filling material technology available today, nothing replaces a natural tooth. Take good care of them.

  • Don’t be a dentist avoider
  • Maintain a balanced diet
  • Brush and floss daily

This article is put together by Dr. Ellie the principal dentist of Pure Dentistry (Dentist Near Mansfield, QLD 4122). You can find more information about Dr Ellie Nadian on Pure Dentistry Website.

 

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