There are millions of people who have amalgam fillings. Recently, there has been concern raised about the mercury used in those fillings – to the point that many feel they should have them removed immediately.
What is Amalgam?
Amalgam is an alloy made from silver, copper, tin, and other metals. Mercury is used to make the mixture malleable. Today, amalgam may contain indium, which helps retain the mercury, so less is released in the environment.
Is Amalgam Safe?
Mercury is toxic to humans, though the toxicity varies by its form. There are no scientific studies to show that amalgam is harmful, and there is no reason not to use amalgam for health reasons.
Reasons Not to Use Amalgam
Despite the these assurances, there are other reasons you might want to avoid amalgam fillings.
- Hides Cavities. Because silver is opaque to x-rays, problems beneath the fillings may remain hidden until serious problems develop.
- Teeth May Crack. Biting causes a silver filling to act like a wedge transmitting force to the rest of the tooth. If the filling is large, the tooth may eventually crack or chip. Other filling methods bond to the tooth and spread the biting force over greater surface, making the tooth stronger.
- If You Are Exposed to Mercury Elsewhere. If you eat a lot of seafood or have a job with mercury exposure, having amalgam fillings adds to the mercury levels, which could push it to dangerous levels. That is why dentists use protective measures when working with amalgam. It is considered safe, but constant exposure raises its toxicity, so precautions must be taken.
While you may want to avoid amalgam for future fillings, removing fillings from otherwise healthy teeth may do more damage to the tooth. It also increases the risk of releasing higher amounts of mercury, which could be inhaled during the extraction.
We can explain your options, and help you determine the best course of action regarding fillings. Of course, the best option is to brush and floss daily, and maintain a regular schedule of dental visits to prevent any cavities in the first place!