Are Silver (amalgam) Fillings OK for my Teeth?
There has been some controversy involving amalgam (silver) dental fillings and possible issues they present to the patient or environment. Dental amalgam is a mixture of copper, silver, tin, and zinc. However, the controversy exists because trace amounts of mercury are added for strength and durability to the filling. Claims exist that the amalgam is toxic and can cause serious issues for anyone who has these fillings or may receive them. But it must be understood that the American Dental Association still supports use the use of dental amalgams as an appropriate restorative material for children and adults because there are no reliable studies that show any harm.
I believe it is admirable when people are conscientious about what materials are put into their bodies. So it is justifiable to question if dental amalgam is safe. Since mercury has become the key concern, we need to know more about how trace amounts can affect us. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and also comes from industrial pollution. Nearly everyone has trace amounts of mercury in their bodies, regardless of the presence or absence of amalgam fillings. Make no mistake, I am not disputing that at high levels mercury can be toxic. But for the average person, the consumption of fish accounts for about 70% of the mercury present in our bodies.
Numerous studies have been conducted to discover if harm is caused by the miniscule amounts of mercury released from an amalgam dental filling. So far none have shown convincing evidence of harmful effects to our bodies or increased risk of toxicity from silver fillings. In fact, the CDC, FDA, EPA, NIH, World Health Organization, and the American Dental Association have all concluded that dental amalgams are safe. And if you saw the Dr. Oz show that reported on the potential harm of mercury vapor in the mouth, I encourage you to visit www.dentalwatch.org/hg/oz.html for a full critique on that segment.
We frequently discuss the pros and cons of having existing amalgam fillings removed for cosmetic reasons. From a clinical stance, we sometimes argue that removing undamaged dental amalgams is typically unnecessary and potentially damaging to the teeth. However, we certainly understand and empathize with the esthetic reasons for removing the silver fillings and we are always open to discussing your options for cosmetic reasons. As far as having silver fillings placed, we believe that unless you have a history of high exposure to mercury or you have had classic symptoms of mercury poisoning in the past, there is no clinical reason to avoid amalgam fillings. In fact, there are still many situations where a dental amalgam filling is recommended over a white (composite) filling to increase the prognosis of the restoration.
At the end of the day, they are your teeth and you can typically decide what type of filling material you feel comfortable having placed. Nearly all of our fillings are tooth colored, but certain situations may arise where it is beneficial to consider an amalgam filling. At that time, we would take time to review the positives and negatives of each to help you make the best decision for your dental and overall health.