What is an Amalgam Filling?
Amalgam is an alloy used for dental fillings that contains approximately 50% mercury, ~22-32% silver, ~14% tin, ~8% copper and other trace metals. Amalgam has been used for dental fillings for over 150 years.
In recent years, with the improvements in composite resin (tooth-colored fillings) and increasing public concern regarding the toxicity of amalgam fillings and the potential effects on the body, amalgam fillings have become a less popular choice among the dental industry. At SAIR we use composite resin (tooth-colored) fillings, which are a durable, aesthetically pleasing, and mercury-free alternative.
The public concern about the toxicity of amalgam fillings is a controversial topic. Dental amalgam does contain mercury, which can release a low level of mercury vapor that can be inhaled. High levels of mercury vapor exposure have been associated with adverse effects in the brain and kidneys. Based on the best scientific evidence available, the FDA at this point has ruled that amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children ages 6 and above. You can read more about Amalgam and the FDA’s position on this topic here.
What should I do?
For patients who currently have amalgam fillings which in good condition and there is no decay beneath the filling, we do not recommend that you have your amalgam fillings removed or replaced unnecessarily. Removing sound amalgam fillings can result in unnecessary loss of healthy tooth structure and may expose you to additional mercury vapor released during the removal process. However, it is important to understand that failing amalgam restorations can pose significant health risks regardless of whether there is mercury release or not, such as recurrent tooth decay, infection, tooth fracture and eventual tooth loss if left untreated.
If you believe that you may have an allergy or sensitivity to mercury or any of the other metals in dental amalgam (such as silver, tin, or copper), or if you have amalgam fillings that have been in your mouth for many years, you should consult with your dentist to have them evaluated and discuss possible treatment options.
When removing an amalgam filling, exposure to mercury vapor is a risk. At SAIR we strictly adhere to specific protocols for safely removing amalgam fillings to reduce patient and staff exposure to mercury vapors.