The term “amalgam fillings” might sound unfamiliar, but you probably know them as silver fillings…maybe you even have some! These kinds of fillings are made from dental amalgam, but many people wonder if that compound material is actually safe.
History of Dental Amalgam
Since the mid-nineteenth century, amalgam has been made from mercury, silver, copper, and tin. Mercury, usually about half of the compound, is necessary to bind the materials together to create a hard and durable filling. For 150 years, dental amalgam has been the most popular and effective method of filling cavities.
But What About Mercury?
Mercury is a naturally occurring mineral that we are all exposed to through the air, water, soil, and food. However, too much mercury is a concern as it is toxic to humans and to the environment. Take fish; mercury dissolves in the seas and oceans due to pollution and years of mercury emissions, which fish consume and then become contaminated. Eating fish with high mercury contamination can lead to mercury poisoning. Mercury is especially harmful to unborn children. Due to this risk, the American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women avoid eating fish that are high in mercury.
Is Dental Amalgam Harmful?
The American Dental Association has studied dental amalgam extensively and determined that the mercury in it is safe for adults and children ages 6 and older. The kind of mercury used in dental amalgam is different from the kind of mercury that is harmful if ingested. Also the amount of mercury used is quite minimal and below the level of exposure identified by the EPA.
Some individuals are allergic or sensitive to mercury, or the other components of dental amalgam. Although this is extremely rare, these individuals could develop oral lesions in reaction to amalgam. In these cases, resin composite fillings are the best option for treating cavities.
Fillings at Wildflower Dental & Orthodontics
Dr. Walkington and the team at Wildflower Dental & Orthodontics use composite fillings for cavities, which are tooth-colored and therefore less noticeable than their silver counterparts. Composite fillings also bond directly to the teeth, so there is much less drilling and more of your existing healthy tooth structure remains.
Remember, the best type of filling is no filling. Keep up your regular brushing and flossing, and certainly don’t forget to visit us at Wildflower Dental & Orthodontics for your biyearly checkups and cleanings!
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