Have you ever contacted dental clinics to find out whether they could replace the amalgam fillings in your mouth? We have found that when patients call about amalgam filling replacement, their concerns are either for aesthetic reasons (i.e. to replace the silver filling with a tooth-coloured, aesthetic filling) or for safety reasons (i.e. concerns over the mercury in the amalgam filling).
Dental amalgam is a stable alloy made by combining elemental mercury, silver, tin, copper and other metallic elements. Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in the air, water and soil. Exposure in high doses can negatively affect the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system.
It should be noted that the mercury in dental amalgam has been combined with other metals to render it stable and safe for use in tooth fillings. According to the American Dental Association and major U.S. and international scientific and health bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, amalgam restorations are safe, reliable and effective.
Amalgam has been used for more than a century by dentists. It is the most thoroughly researched and tested restorative material. Amalgam fillings are stronger than composite (tooth coloured) fillings and research has shown that amalgam fillings may have greater longevity than composite fillings. They are thus particularly useful for restoring the back teeth (molars) which are mainly used for chewing. Despite its strength, amalgam is also less expensive compared with other materials.
The FDA concluded, after a thorough review of the best available scientific evidence, that dental amalgam fillings were safe for adults and children over 6 years of age. Clinical studies have indicated no link between amalgam fillings and health problems. The amount of mercury measured in those with amalgam fillings is well below the levels associated with adverse health effects. The FDA has also concluded that the use of amalgam fillings in pregnant or nursing mothers and young children is also within safety levels.
Individuals who have an allergy or sensitivity to mercury or other components found in amalgam should discuss other treatment options with their dentist as dental amalgam fillings for this group of people may not be advisable.
It is generally not recommended to replace amalgam fillings as long as they are in good condition, i.e. no leakage that will allow bacteria to go into your teeth and cause further decay inside. Your dentist will be able to advise on the condition of the current filling(s) in your mouth, and whether or not to replace it.