Amalgam is a material that consists of a combination of different metals and has been used in dentistry for more than 100 years. It contains metals such as silver, mercury, tin, copper and small amounts of zinc, indium or palladium also may be found in amalgam.
Amalgam is used in dentistry as a filling material and in recent years it has raised concern due to the mercury content.
Many studies on the safety of amalgam fillings have been conducted and in 2009 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded, after evaluating the research, that there is no reason to limit the use of amalgam fillings and that they are safe for adults and children over 6 years of age. However, there is ongoing research on this subject.
As with most substances, the amount of mercury is the key factor in determining the harmful effects. Very low levels of mercury don’t cause any issues. At high levels mercury can cause several problems such as anxiety, irritability, memory loss, headaches and fatigue.
Minute amounts of mercury in the form of vapor can be released in the mouth as the amalgam filling wears. However, research has concluded that the amount of Mercury released from amalgam in the mouth is extremely low.
Most of us are exposed to more Mercury in our daily environment compared to the amounts found in our amalgam fillings.
If you are pregnant and are concerned about your amalgam fillings and are thinking of replacing these fillings with a different material you must wait for after the pregnancy to do so. Research has shown that existing amalgam fillings do not have any affects on the fetus but removing them during pregnancy will release more mercury and potentially be harmful since mercury can cross the placenta.
In general, no dental work is recommended during pregnancy and if an emergency arises treatment must be done during the second trimester only.
Another reason for replacing these amalgam fillings is that they can become leaky and weak with time. Amalgam fillings are mostly placed in the molars for better strength and wear qualities but with time they can start breaking down. Bacteria can leak under and start new decay.
Also the technique of tooth preparation is very important for an amalgam filling and if not done properly with time and the forces of mastication these fillings put a lot of stress on the tooth and can cause fractures in the tooth. Many times teeth with old large amalgam fillings are in need of crowns to protect them from fracturing off.
So ultimately it is your decision to have your amalgam fillings replaced or not. The toxicity from these fillings is minimal and not a major concern at this point according to the FDA. However, they can cause fractures in the tooth.
The material of choice to replace amalgam fillings with is composite resins. Preferred Family Dentistry is a green practice and our Las Vegas dentist only uses tooth colored composite material for fillings. With the new composite materials available today strength is not a concern for larger fillings in the molars anymore. Keep in mind that composite resins with time may stain and are in need of replacement or polish every few years. Please feel free to visit us for a consult on your amalgam fillings.