Fillings made with amalgam, otherwise known as mercury fillings, are commonly used to fill cavities. While effective, the use of mercury fillings has raised concerns in recent years, mainly due to the use and presence of mercury.
What is a Mercury Filling?
Technically, mercury fillings consist of a combination of metals, including silver, tin, copper and of course, mercury. Small amounts of palladium, indium and zinc are also used, but not always.
Of this combination of materials, it is the mercury that, when mixed with alloy powder, allows the filling material to be soft enough to mix and press into the teeth. At the same time, however, the compound hardens quickly and is durable enough to withstand the constant pressure of daily activities, such as biting and chewing.
Dentists have used this combination of metals to restore teeth and fill cavities for more than a hundred years.
While it no longer is the only material available, as tooth-colored materials have also become a popular alternative, mercury fillings remain a popular choice because it is generally cheaper and more durable.
Why Is It Dangerous?
Because of how it’s been in use for more than a hundred years, mercury fillings have been used in patients far more times than any other material. However, in recent years, the safety of the use of mercury has been questioned.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has stated that there’s no reason to limit the use of mercury, and have come to the conclusion that the fillings are safe for both adults, as well as children above the age of 6.
There are groups, however, that believe that this conclusion should be reconsidered and reevaluated.
The main reason for concern with mercury fillings is the effect of mercury in the human body.
While we all are exposed to little amounts of mercury every day, very low levels aren’t really enough to warrant concern. However, at higher levels, mercury has been proven to cause anxiety, irritability, memory loss, headaches and even fatigue.
In recent years, it’s been shown that as the mercury filling wears, which happens over time, very small amounts of mercury in the form of vapor are slowly released into the human body.
Just how much this affects the human body, if it does at all, is debatable and there are experts that conclude that the amount of mercury released is very low to pose any threat.
Still, there has yet to be any conclusion as to whether or not mercury fillings are truly safe.
The Alternatives to Mercury Fillings
First things first, if you already have mercury fillings in your teeth, you don’t have to worry about having them removed. Doing so can cause do more harm than good and may even release more mercury. You only need to worry about having them removed when the teeth are already worn out, broken or if there’s decay present beneath the filling.
For other alternatives, you can choose from a wide variety of materials, such as composite resin, porcelain and gold. There are also dental amalgams that contain both iridium and mercury, as well as high-copper dental amalgams, both of which contain much less mercury compared to conventional dental amalgams or mercury fillings.
Be sure to talk to your dentist about your concerns regarding the use of dental amalgam, as well as whether the alternatives to mercury fillings would be right for your particular case.
If you’re seeking a dental professional to solve a dental problem, contact Dr. Anthony Yamada DDS at 310-546-2595. Visit www.anthonyyamadadds.com to learn about the additional services offered by Dr. Anthony Yamada DDS.