One of the most common questions that people ask about fillings is whether or not the amalgam ones (made of metal) are a safe option for treating cavities. While there has been a lot of controversy around these fillings, the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have both reaffirmed their position that these fillings are safe for you and your family in most cases.
What is an Amalgam Filling?
Dentists uses fillings to treat cavities that are the result of tooth decay. For more than 150 years they have been using a specific type of filling called amalgam. It’s a combination of multiple metals, including:
- Liquid, or elemental, mercury
- Powdered mixture of silver, tin, and copper
During the process of placing a filling, dentists combine liquid mercury with the powdered alloys to form an “amalgam” (that’s where the name comes from), bonding the various parts together in a soft putty. The dentist places this putty in the cavity, where it hardens and becomes a permanent part of the tooth.
Concerns with Dental Amalgam
When a dentist combines the elemental mercury with the powdered alloys to form the filling a small amount of vapor is released, which could be inhaled into the lungs of the person getting the filling. While high levels of mercury vapor are dangerous, there is no scientific evidence that the extremely low level of vapor released with an amalgam filling causes adverse effects for adults or children age 6 and older.
However, mercury can be harmful to a developing fetus or a young child, and there are no studies of potential adverse effects of dental amalgam for pregnant women or children younger than age 6. In those cases, talk to the dentist about what options are best if you need a filling.
Benefits of Dental Amalgam
Despite some of the concerns raised, numerous studies have provided no evidence of widespread negative health effects of metal fillings aside from the rare chance of an allergic reaction. Since the World Health Organization put out its first statement in 1997, dozens of studies published in peer-reviewed journals, as well as reviews by expert panels, have reaffirmed the findings.
Many dentists recommend amalgam fillings because they are very strong and durable, so they’re unlikely to break or come loose at a later time. They are also the least expensive material for cavity fillings.
How to Keep You and Your Family Safe
If you’re still concerned about the potential risks of dental amalgam, there are other options available. Young Family Dental also offers white fillings, which are made of a mixture of quartz, silica and barium that forms a composite resin (plastic) that hardens into a filling. These fillings contain no mercury, and are often preferred for cosmetic reasons, since the final color of the filling more closely matches the natural color of your tooth and makes it less visible.
Talk to us today to learn more about the types of fillings available and discuss which one is best for you.