If you’ve ever had a tooth filled, it’s possible that your dentist used a metal filling material. This metal composite is known as amalgam.
Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals including silver, mercury, tin, and copper. It may also contain trace amounts of zinc, indium, or palladium. It has been the most popular and effective material used in dentistry over the past 150 years. However, in recent years concerns have arisen concerning the use of mercury in dental amalgam, and its potential effects on the human body.
So, is amalgam really a safe filling material? What do you need to know about it?
Concerns About Mercury
Mercury is a naturally occurring chemical element that everyone is exposed to through the air, drinking water, and soil. It is also in the food we eat. Exposure to low levels of mercury does not cause any harm. However, it is believed that exposure to higher levels leads to symptoms including anxiety, irritability, memory loss, headaches, and fatigue. Additionally, in rare cases individuals may experience an allergic reaction to the mercury in amalgam.
The controversy centers on if and how much mercury from amalgam fillings is absorbed by the body. Research findings are complex and inconclusive. Some studies show that the amount of mercury you are exposed to from your fillings is less than you are exposed to through your daily environment or the food you eat.
Based on the best available scientific evidence, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers dental amalgam fillings safe for adults and children over six years of age.
Alternatives to Amalgam
Due to new dental technologies and the controversy surrounding amalgam, alternative filling materials have risen in popularity over recent years. Fillings can be made of porcelain, gold, or a tooth-colored material referred to as composite resin. Composite resin has become an increasingly popular choice for dental fillings recently. However, since composite resin wears faster than amalgam, it can’t be used in every situation.
Should I Have My Metal Fillings Removed?
Since no evidence can directly link the mercury in tooth fillings to any specific medical problem, at Yuba City we typically recommend to only replace metal fillings when they are worn, broken, or if there is decay below the filling. Removing them unnecessarily results in loss of healthy parts of your tooth and can possibly release mercury.
Of course, every individual has the right to make their own decision regarding the use of amalgam fillings in their teeth. If you have concerns, we recommend making an appointment with your Yuba City dentist to discuss the situation.