There is a certain stigma associated with silver fillings (amalgam) due to the fact that they contain mercury. Once the general population discovered that mercury could be poisonous, publicity flocked to the silver alloy/amalgam fillings. Dentists started to actually have patients come back to their offices to have these amalgam fillings removed and replaced with composite resin (tooth-colored) fillings.
This is unknown to the public: mercury is more “toxic” when it is airborne in vapor form. By going back to the dentist to have your silver fillings removed and replaced, you are actually exposing yourself to more mercury than having it placed as a solid metal in your mouth.
Amalgam has been used in dentistry for over 150 years by millions of people all across the globe. It’s cheap and completely safe to have in your mouth.
There have been numerous studies conducted on people with dental amalgam (silver) fillings and there is no conclusive evidence that mercury is in any way toxic or harmful to people. Small amounts of mercury vapor may be discharged at the initial placement of the filling or if the amalgam is removed from the patient’s mouth. However, the adverse effects are inconclusive.
What are silver fillings made of?
The quantitative total of mercury contained in an amalgam alloy silver filling is approximately 50%. Dental amalgam, or “silver-filling” due to its appearance, is a mixture of mercury, silver, copper, tin, and zinc used to fill cavities in teeth. Dental amalgam is approximately half (50%) mercury, by weight.
According to the FDA’s article on information for patients about dental amalgam fillings, there are multiple benefits of dental amalgam and there has never been a direct correlation between mercury in silver fillings and health problems. Silver fillings are strong and long-lasting. Depending on the severity of decay in a patient’s mouth, it is useful where moisture makes it difficult for a resin to bond to the tooth. Another perk of amalgam is that it’s the cheapest type of material.U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Should I get my silver fillings replaced?
Ultimately, dentists do not recommend having your silver fillings replaced if there is no decay present. In dentistry, we try to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible. By removing an existing silver filling from a healthy tooth, you are not only risking the possibility of removing healthy tooth structure but also exposing yourself to more mercury through aerosol inhalation.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “It was found that the greatest amount of mercury was released during dry polishing of one amalgam (44 micrograms). Removal of amalgam from a Class I cavity under water spray and high volume evacuation also generated large amounts of mercury as expected (15-20 micrograms).”
In this day and age, it may be difficult for you to find a dentist who has amalgam fillings as an option in their office. Composite resin is stiff competition for this restoration option due to its pliability and cosmetic benefits.
Do dentists still use silver fillings?
Good news! Hardly any dental practices place amalgam cavity restorations these days.
Silver amalgam alloy fillings are hardly ever used in dentistry today. Composite (tooth-colored) resin is much more natural looking and easy to use compared to amalgam. Not only is this more aesthetically pleasing, but it lasts longer! Composite material is pliable and a much easier material to work with for dentists and dental assistants!
At Dental Office Training by Lynn, we discuss all types of restorative materials used in dentistry so that you are prepared to assist your doctor from day one. Composite resin was introduced to dentistry in the 1960s and has been increasing in popularity ever since.
If you’d like to enroll in our program give us a call at 317-585-9015.
Start your new journey to becoming a dental assistant today, by contacting Lynn Uptgraft.
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