Have you ever had a tooth filled due to a cavity? If so, take a quick look at your mouth. Is the filling made of a gray or shiny metal? This composite is known as amalgam, and is made up of a mixture of metals likely including silver, mercury, tin, and copper. Amalgam fillings may also include small amounts of zinc, indium, or palladium.
In recent years, more and more patients have been asking the question: Is it safe to have all that metal in my mouth?
At the Marconi Dental Group, we get this question often. Before we answer it, let’s take a closer look at amalgam fillings and what we know about them.
Concerns About Amalgam Fillings
Much of the concerns around amalgam fillings focus on a single metal: mercury.
Mercury is all around us, including in our air, soil, food – even in our drinking water. So, exposure to low levels of mercury don’t appear to cause any harm. But many believe there’s a big difference between taking in trace amounts of mercury and living with a concentration of it embedded into their body—a concentration which will eventually deteriorate and possibly be swallowed, absorbed into the bloodstream, or inhaled and absorbed by the lungs.
Research indicates that exposure to higher levels of mercury could lead to various symptoms including:
- Memory loss
- Allergic reactions
- Other adverse effects in the brain and the kidneys
But how much mercury from amalgam fillings is really absorbed by the body?
The truth is, no one knows for sure. Studies so far have proven inconclusive. But based on the best evidence available, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) endorses dental amalgam fillings as safe for adults and children over the age of six; yet, concerns still exist.
Tooth Filling Alternatives
Nowadays, there is a variety of filling materials available. In addition to amalgam, fillings may be made of porcelain, gold, or a tooth-colored material known as composite resin. In Sacramento, more and more patients have been choosing composite resin for their fillings since they blend in and are difficult to see.
But what if you already have amalgam fillings. Should you consider having them removed?
Due to the lack of hard evidence linking amalgam tooth fillings directly to any specific medical problem, we at the Marconi Dental Group typically advise patients to only replace metal fillings under specific circumstances – for example, if a filling has become worn or broken, or if a tooth has begun to decay below the filling. Unnecessary removal may result in losing part of your tooth and could even contribute to release of mercury in the filling.
Of course, we respect these concerns of our patients and are committed to using only the safest and most effective tooth filling materials available. If you are worried about your amalgam fillings, why not make an appointment to speak to your dentist personally? He or she will be happy to share the latest research and help you make a decision that’s right for you.