Within the past decade, questions have been raised about the safety of silver amalgam fillings due to their partial use of mercury in the filling. While the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) evaluated their safety in 2009 and found no serious connection with mercury in amalgam fillings and releasing of mercury in the body, many groups asked the FDA to consider studying silver amalgam fillings further and the review is currently under way. This issue continues to be a hot topic of controversy within and out of the dental community.
But first, let us break down the silver amalgam filling. Silver fillings are not solely made of mercury, in fact, roughly 50% of the filling is elemental mercury. The other half of the filling are made up of powdered alloy mix of silver, tin, and copper. The mercury is used to bind the alloy particles together to make a strong, long-lasting and durable filling. Mercury is chosen due to it’s unique properties, liquid at room temperature and bonds with alloy powder. Elemental mercury is different than methylmercury found in fish which is a type of organic mercury. Elemental mercury releases mercury vapor which is absorbed in the lungs while methylmercury is absorbed in the digestive tract. The body has different tolerances for each kind of mercury and responds to each differently as well. In studies where healthy subjects have been subjected to mercury vapor, the body has shown bioaccumulation (accumulation of certain chemicals in the body) in certain tissues of the body including the kidneys and brain. According to the FDA, studies have shown that bioaccumulation from mercury in silver amalgam fillings have not resulted in damage to target organs.
What the FDA has found is ultimately for the most part, silver amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children over the ages of 6 and are to be avoided by pregnant women and people with allergies to mercury or metals. Dental amalgam might cause individuals with allergies to develop oral lesions or contact reactions. Despite limited clinical information, the FDA concluded that existing risk information supports a finding that infants are not at risk for adverse health effects from the mercury in breast milk of women exposed to mercury vapor from dental amalgam. According to the Colgate Oral Care Center website, research on this issue is varied, complex and has resulted in multiple different estimates on the actual amount of mercury vapor released from the amalgam filling as it wears but several reviews have concluded that the amount released in the mouth is very low. Some studies have even showed that the amount of mercury exposed to the mouth is less than the amount people are exposed to in their daily environment or in food they eat.
So if silver amalgam seems to be okay, why does Goldstein Dental only use resin composite fillings? Well, first of all, seeing past all the health concerns still associated with silver amalgam fillings, just look at the difference between the tooth kinds of fillings:
Since resin mimics the appearance of natural teeth, this option of filling has be incredibly popular for decades, especially for front teeth. Over the past 10 years, the materials for resins have evolved in such a way that they can withstand the pressure, grinding and wear that back teeth are prone to seeing. Silver amalgam fillings don’t immediately harden – when you leave the office after a composite filling, you are good to go and chew away as the composite has already been hardened. Additionally, another problem that arises with amalgam fillings is that more tooth structure needs to be removed for the dentist to pour the silver amalgam into your tooth.
So you might be wondering – should I get my silver amalgam fillings taken out and replaced with resin ones? While the FDA and ADA continue to support the use of silver amalgam fillings and their safety, they do not condone the removal of healthy, intact silver fillings as they could cause more harm to the tooth structure and can pose other health risks to the patient including releasing mercury into your body. Silver fillings should only be replaced when they are worn, broken or when their is decay present beneath the filling.
At Goldstein Dental, we believe in restoring your mouth back to it’s best and normal function. We believe in giving you your confidence back and teeth that you are proud and excited to show off to everyone in your life. Confidence begins with a great smile and we are here to help you to attain that!