Dental Amalgams: Are Silver Fillings Still OK?
There has been some recent controversy about amalgam (silver) dental fillings and any issues they may present to the patient or environment. Dental amalgam is a mixture of copper, silver, tin, and zinc; trace amounts of mercury are added for strength and durability. There are claims that the amalgam is toxic and can cause serious issues. However, the American Dental Association still supports use the use of dental amalgams as an appropriate restorative material for children and adults.
It is admirable that people today are conscientious about what materials are put into their bodies, and it is a normal to question if dental amalgam is safe. 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. At high levels, mercury can be very dangerous. However, in the average human, the consumption of fish accounts for about 70% of the mercury present in our bodies.
Many studies have been conducted to discover if harm is caused by the miniscule amounts of mercury released from an amalgam filling. None have shown convincing evidence of harmful effects or increased risks. In fact, the CDC, FDA, EPA, NIH, World Health Organization, and the American Dental Association have all concluded that dental amalgams are safe.
Removing undamaged dental amalgams is typically unnecessary and potentially damaging to the teeth. 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 a number of situations where a dental amalgam filling is recommended over a white (composite) filling.
At the end of the day, they are your teeth and you can decide what type of filling material you feel comfortable with. Nearly all of our fillings are tooth colored, but situations can arise where it is beneficial to consider a dental 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.