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With newer general dentistry restoration options, like tooth-colored fillings, now available, more and more people are shunning the old amalgam fillings. However, amalgam remains one of the strongest and durable filling options available. This article answers frequently asked questions about metal amalgam fillings.
How are amalgam fillings made?
Amalgam fillings are usually called "silver fillings" due to their color, but the term is not an accurate representation of the materials used to make them. Amalgam or metal fillings are made of an alloy of silver, tin, mercury, and copper. The metals' proportions are calculated and mixed precisely to prevent the "free" mercury molecules that once made many people concerned about the health hazards.
Why are amalgam fillings not as popular as before?
Although amalgam fillings contain mercury, the American Dental Association and scientific studies show that the mercury level is not harmful. That said, there are limitations with amalgam metal fillings. They tend to expand with time, causing the tooth to crack. Also, the silver color and metallic properties affect the filling's appearance. Ceramic and composite fillings have become the preferred options for dental restorations due to their aesthetic appeal.
Why is mercury part of amalgam fillings?
Up to half of a dental amalgam is elemental mercury, and the other part is an alloy of tin, copper, and silver. Mercury has chemical properties that allow it to bind the other metals together to create amalgam, a strong and durable dental filling. This makes mercury a vital component of dental amalgam.
Are amalgam fillings poisonous?
The claim that amalgam fillings are harmful has been studied extensively. Mercury is poisonous and a major environmental toxin. But research has shown that the mercury in amalgam filling has a powerful bond with the silver and does not increase one's mercury levels.
Does mercury leak from a tooth with an amalgam filling?
Yes, but the quantity is insignificant and has no impact on health or mercury levels in the body. The mercury that humans are exposed to from sources like water and fish is more than what comes from dental amalgams.
Is it advisable to replace amalgam fillings due to concerns about mercury?
If the filling is strong and no decay exists under it, there is no need to visit the general dentistry office to remove or replace the amalgam fillings. Removing the filling will only lead to needless removal of healthy tooth structure and may expose patients to mercury vapor during the removal process, especially if an inexperienced dentist handles the process. However, if the filling is no longer effective or the patient has a health condition or allergy to mercury, the amalgam filling should be replaced.
Dental amalgam is usually used to fill decay on back teeth. Patients looking to replace their metal filling for cosmetic reasons can consult their general dentist for recommendations. If you have more questions, contact the general dentistry office for answers.