If you have ever heard of a “silver” filling, then you already know a little bit about the uses of mercury in dentistry. The accurate term for “silver” fillings is dental amalgam fillings. These fillings are some of the strongest and longest lasting options on the market, but there are a few things you probably don’t know about them.
The Dangers of Mercury Dentistry
These fillings only contain a very small percentage of silver. In total, a dental amalgam filling is actually about 50% mercury while the rest of the material is made from a mixture of silver, copper, and tin. This composition is leading a lot of people to question the safety of using dental amalgam fillings.
A Look at Mercury
Mercury is a naturally existing element that can be found in three different forms. The form found in amalgam fillings we know as elemental mercury. It’s a metallic form of the element, and it’s actually a liquid at room temperature.
Unfortunately, mercury can also prove highly toxic if you find yourself exposed to it over time. Recent research shows that dental amalgam fillings may expose patients to low levels of mercury vapor over the years. While the FDA has not seen fit to pull amalgam fillings off the market yet, they do recommend that high-risk patients should choose mercury-free options.
- High-risk patients include:
- Children under six
- Pregnant women
- Nursing mothers
- People with neurological impairment
- People with kidney dysfunction
- Anyone sensitive to metals including mercury, silver, tin, and copper
Current Research and Existing Fillings
Most Americans have a measurable amount of mercury in their blood and urine. But scientists have yet to establish a truly safe level of exposure. In cases of over-exposure, there could exist neurological damage. Additionally health complications affecting the kidneys and upper respiratory tract can appear. Until we better understand what level of elemental mercury exposure is safe, it may be in your best interest to choose a mercury-free dentist in Arcadia.
As of now, the FDA does not recommend having undamaged dental amalgam fillings replaced. Doing so could damage the remaining structure of your teeth. And it may actually expose you to a temporary increase in elemental mercury vapor. Instead, the FDA suggests keeping undamaged dental amalgam fillings in place. From then, choose mercury-free options for any future fillings if concerned.
Mercury Free Options
Fortunately, there are plenty of filling options that don’t contain any mercury. If it turns out you need a filling at any point in the future, your dentist in Arcadia will be more than happy to talk you through all of their mercury-free choices.
Three of the most popular are:
- Composite fillings: Composite fillings come from an acrylic resin. They can look just like your natural tooth. They are not as strong as dental amalgam. But you can still expect them to last between 5 and 7 years with regular care.
- Gold fillings: Gold fillings are pricey and definitely stand out. However, they are also the most durable option. With appropriate care you can expect a gold filling to last as long as twenty years.
- Ceramic fillings: Ceramic fillings are often the most expensive filling option available. They prove a bit more durable than composite fillings and can color-match to your teeth. You will have to make sure you only receive a ceramic filling. It proves common to bond them with silver amalgam for even greater strength.
The Current Situation
As of now, the safety of dental amalgam fillings is still being evaluated. It may be years before we understand whether they are entirely safe or not. In the meantime, cautious patients should choose mercury-free options to avoid potential health risks down the road.