Dental amalgam, the material for “silver” fillings, is used less and less by dentists. The younger the dentist, the less likely they are to use dental amalgam. Many in the dental community and the public have health concerns over one of its primary components, elemental mercury. Both the American Dental Association and the Food and Drug Administration agree that dental amalgam is safe, but many dentists and patients prefer composite fillings that match the color of the tooth, largely for cosmetic reasons. The Sacramento Dentistry Group generally does not use mercury for patient restorations, believing the risks, no matter how small, outweigh the benefits compared to the alternatives. Still, there are circumstances when dental amalgam is used, simply due to its durability. Nevertheless, some patients should never receive amalgam fillings.
What’s In Dental Amalgam?
Amalgam was first commonly used about 150 years ago. During most of its history, it was thought that the mercury in amalgam restorations was made inert by its combination with the other components — silver, copper, and tin (and the minor ingredients, like indium, zinc and palladium). Improved research shows, however, that mercury vapor is released in very small quantities from fillings made with amalgam. Fortunately, the amount of vapor is actually less than the mercury absorbed or consumed from the environment, and that’s the main reason why its use is still not forbidden
For certain patients, however, any exposure to mercury should be avoided. This includes the following people:
- Children aged six and under should not receive dental amalgam. Their small size makes the risk of complication greater. Also, their teeth will soon fall out for permanent teeth, so they don’t really need amalgam’s durability.
- Pregnant women should avoid amalgam fillings and receive composite or ionomer fillings instead. Mercury crosses the placenta, representing a potential risk to the fetus. While medically allowed by some experts, others do not consider it advisable.
- Employees that work with mercury on a regular basis should not receive amalgam fillings.
- People who consume large amounts of seafood should avoid amalgam. Environmental mercury bioaccumulates in predatory fish, making seafood a primary source of mercury consumption in the public.
- If you are allergic to any of the ingredients of dental amalgam, you should obviously use dental composites instead for your restorations.
Always inform your dentist if you fit any of these categories and require a restoration, such as a cavity filling. For more details about fillings and when to fix them, call us at 916-538-6900, visit our office at 1105 E Street, or request an appointment via our online form.