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Are Amalgam Restorations (aka “silver fillings”) safe?

A common question asked by many patients is “Are silver or mercury fillings harmful to my health?” 
Here’s the answer.
Amalgam restorations, commonly called “silver or mercury fillings” are a very controversial subject.  It is increasingly common for researchers to comment on the safety of these types of fillings due to amalgam containing mercury. It is a fact that these types of fillings contain generally 40% elemental mercury along with lesser percents of silver, tin, copper and zinc.  These elements are all mixed together for 12-15 seconds to form amalgam. Initially amalgam has the consistancy of wet sand but as the minutes go by the alloy gets very hard. The mercury is now in a more controlled state mixed as a solid alloy rather than a liquid.

Once an amalgam is placed and the patient uses the tooth for chewing, the filling is questioned to release mercury vapor. Here is where the controversy lies. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) shows research that people at risk for mercury poisoning would be more likely to actually develop the condition from eating fish high in mercury, everyday in the air we breathe, or via certain medication vs from chewing on their amalgam fillings.

Typically amalgam fillings have declined in use due to the option of resin tooth colored fillings, decrease in cavities and increased access to fluoridated water. However amalgam fills are a great restoration and are the filling of choice in an area that is either hard to isloate from saliva or has some bleeding.

Similarly to the CDC, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) supports the use of amalgams. As of 2009, the FDA has classified amalgams as a class II medical device, the same as other restorative materials such as composite resin and gold. 

Of course you, the patient should always be informed of what type of filling material is recommended and if you have any questions or concerns, please ask your dentist to educate you. To contact our office, please visit our website. Thanks for reading and happy holidays.
-JC