Safety First

Are Silver or Amalgam Fillings Safe?

Silver Fillings are OK!

At dinner one night, my friend Sam mentioned that he had seen a new dentist. The dentist is located in Beverly Hills, CA and has taken over for the previous dentist who retired. Initially I thought Sam was just sharing, but soon realized something was bothering him.

Sam was concerned; amongst other dubious information, he was told the silver fillings in his mouth were poisonous and it was recommended that he have them removed. Being that I am a registered dental hygienist, this immediately set off alarms in my head.

People, if you ever hear those words come out of a dentists mouth, seek another dentist. While very few people have an allergic reaction to the silver or amalgam fillings, this is a false claim that can lead to agony and the loss of time, money and teeth.

In 1986, the American Dental Association Council on Ethics, Bylaws, and Judicial Affairs concluded that “removal of amalgam restorations solely for the alleged purpose of removing toxic substances from the body, when such treatment is performed at the recommendation of the dentist, presents a question of fraud or quackery in all but an exceedingly limited spectrum of cases.”

Facts about Amalgam fillings:
  • Amalgam means a mixture of two or more metals
  • Dental amalgam is a mix of approximately 43% to 54% mercury with other metals, including silver, copper and tin
  • The National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization, among others agree that dental amalgam is a safe, reliable and effective restorative material
  • It is one of the oldest filling materials and has been used for more than 150 year
  • Dental amalgam is the most thoroughly researched and tested filling material
  • Amalgam is used most commonly in the back teeth
Advantages of Amalgam fillings:
  • Strong, durable and highly resistant to wear
  • Usually the least expensive filling material
  • Minimum shrinkage and leakage
  • Low maintenance
  • Only material that can be used in a wet environment, which is a factor when treating children
Disadvantages of Amalgam fillings:
  • Amalgam is less attractive than tooth-colored fillings
  • Some very vocal individuals and groups have raised concern about the low level of mercury vapor released
  • Amalgam scrap contains mercury and requires special handling to protect the environment
  • Amalgam corrodes or darkens over time
  • In rare cases, a localized allergic reaction may occur
  • Possible short-term sensitivity to hot or cold after the filling is placed

The truth is amalgam fillings present a very low risk of harm to us. Replacing them at the dentists request for no other reason other than they are silver should be avoided. If you do not like the appearance of your silver filling or they are breaking ask the dentist what he or she suggests. Just know, with all dental treatment there are risks including broken teeth, dental nerve damage and even tooth loss.

I recommend waiting until the amalgam fillings expire due to breakage, recurrent decay or leakage. When that time comes, then change it up to a tooth colored restoration you can smile about.

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