What’s all the fuss about dental amalgam fillings?
Silver fillings or “dental amalgam” is a filling material that has been used to fill cavities since it was first introduced in the early 1800’s. Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals consisting of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, copper, and zinc. Approximately 50% of dental amalgam is elemental mercury by weight, which when blended with the metals was considered to become inert and safe in the mouth.Amalgam fillings were the dental standard for nearly two centuries. It was easy to place, durable, and relatively inexpensive.
As better research was developed in the 1980’s, concerns were raised about the true safety of the mercury. Also, other alternative filling materials, which we knew to be safer, were being developed. Beginning in Europe, and then spreading to Canada and the U.S, more and more dentists stopped using amalgam, as our office did. Then several European countries passed laws to stop or greatly curb the use of amalgam fillings. Canada may soon do the same.
While questions have arisen about the safety of dental amalgam relating to its mercury content, the major U.S. Health Bodies, including the Center for Disease Control, have been satisfied that dental amalgam is safe. The American Dental Association has taken the position that amalgam use is safe. What a dilemma! We are faced with compelling data that the mercury in fillings may be a hazard to our health, but both sides seem be sure to their positions. What should we do? Is there a way to reason through this?
I think there is! First, we are being constantly bombarded with all sorts of chemical influences in our food, air, water, and…everywhere. I think it makes sense to avoid known toxins, especially if there is a good alternative. Secondly, old amalgams can and do leak. When placing dental amalgam the dentist drills the tooth to create a “dove tail” preparation to actually “lock” the filling into place. There is no ADHESION between the tooth and the filling, which after years of eating and drinking hot and cold things, allows for expansion and contraction which leads to leakage and new decay. The decay is difficult to detect on x-rays until it has gotten very deep and serious.
What is the solution, what are my choices?
There are new materials that can be used by dentists. Gold, composite resins, porcelains and zirconias are other materials that do not just patch a tooth, but truly RESTORE it. That is restore not only it’s function, but also it’s natural appearance and youthful beauty. The way these materials are attached to the teeth is a revolutionary shift in dentistry. Old silver fillings are just “stuffed” in a hole in the tooth. That is why so often when the tooth has been hollowed out for a silver filling, creating a shell of enamel around the silver, part of that shell of enamel crack and falls off. Then you need caps and often root canals, ect. On the other hand, the new esthetic materials are strongly bonded to the tooth, which restores not only function and beauty, but returns most of the original strength to the tooth. It has been shown that a large silver filling reduces the strength of a tooth to about 30% or original values! Bonded esthetic fillings return the tooth to 80% or more!
It seems to me a no-brainer to conclude that if there is even any possibility that the mercury-containing amalgam fillings could be a danger to your health, why use them?
Plus, given the fact that amalgam fillings are ugly-looking, weaken teeth, and that there are newer techniques available that strengthen teeth and look beautifully natural, it makes no sense to have amalgam fillings in your mouth! Right?
Mercury Free Fillings and Holistic Dentistry
In Holistic Dentistry, there is an effort to find more biocompatible materials to reduce the potential for toxicity. Silver “mercury” amalgam fillings are avoided due to toxicity concerns. The old silver “mercury” amalgam fillings can be removed and replaced with a natural looking “bonded” material. Not only are the newer esthetic materials less toxic, but they are much stronger. Old mercury amalgam fillings usually have leaking edges. The tooth is actually weakened by the “wedge” effect of the old amalgam fillings. The new esthetic composite materials are strongly bonded to the tooth. The resulting restoration restores not just function and beauty, but returns most of the original strength of the tooth.