What is an Amalgam Filling?
Dental Amalgam, also known as Silver Filling material is a mixture of Mercury and Metal Alloy’s used to fill a hole in a tooth after decay has been removed by a dentist. Amalgam commonly consists of Mercury (50%), Silver (35%), Tin (13%), Copper (2%) and other trace metals like Zinc. Dental amalgams were first documented in a Tang Dynasty medical text written by Su Kung in 659 AD, and appeared in Germany around 1528. In the 1800s, amalgam became the dental restorative material of choice due to its low cost, ease of application, strength, and durability. Recently however, concern for appearance, environmental pollution, health, and the availability of improved, reliable, composite (white) filling materials have diminished its popularity. In particular, concerns about the toxicity of mercury have made its use increasingly controversial.
What is Mercury and why is it so toxic?
Mercury is a chemical element with symbol Hg and atomic number 80 (which is a pretty high number). It is commonly known as quicksilver. The reason that Mercury is so dangerous is that Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at standard temperature and pressure: in fact, there is no other metal that can remain liquid in a wider range of conditions. This is mostly due to the abnormal behavior of the electrons orbiting the atom and makes it one, of the only 5 elements, to be liquid in a normal state.
But the real dangerous property of mercury is its density. Mercury is 13.5 times denser than water. It’s liquid and gas forms are highly poisonous. When inhaled or ingested, Mercury can accumulate in the body, slowly degrading the membranes of important organs like the brain, nervous system, kidneys or liver. It can cause varying effects from eye irritation and vomiting to DNA and chromosomal damage. Mercury can be found naturally in the environment, present around the world as “Cinnabar”. Although it has always been released into the environment through normal weathering, the recent rise in its quantity on the globe has many people worried. Because it is not naturally found in food, there is a worry that we could be ingesting dangerous amounts of it simply as a result of the natural food chain, fish being the main concern.
Are Silver Mercury Fillings Safe?
In the “Directions for Use” literature that comes from the Amalgam Silver Filling manufacturer, Caulk/Dentsply, it has a listing of when the use of Amalgam is NOT indicated. The list is as follows:
- In expectant mothers
- In children under 6 years old
- In contact with other metals
- In patients with kidney problems
- In patients with known allergies to Tin, Copper, Silver or Mercury
The warnings in the “Instructions for Use of Amalgam Silver Filling Material” by Caulk/Dentsply go on to state, that “Exposure to Amalgam can cause skin sensitization or other allergic reactions.“It also says “Do NOT swallow. If nausea or illness develops, seek medical attention immediately. Contact the Regional Poison Control Center immediately.” Lastly, it states “Mercury is toxic by vapor inhalation, avoid inhaling the vapor. Inhalation of vapors may cause varying degrees of damage to the affected tissue and also increased susceptibility to respiratory illness. This product may cause Neurotoxic (Nerve Damaging), Nephrotoxic (Kidney Damaging) or other serious health effects if inhaled or ingested”
Mercury Vapors coming off an Amalgam Silver Mercury filling
Besides toxicity, what other problems do Silver Mercury Fillings have?
Other than toxicity, one of the main reasons why Amalgam with Mercury in it is such a poor material for filling a tooth is that it Expands on Heating and Contracts on Cooling.
When the Mercury in an Amalgam Silver filling expands when you put anything hot in your mouth, it pushes on the walls of the tooth spreading them apart. Then, when you drink a Cold liquid and the Mercury in your Amalgam Silver filling contracts, a gap will open up between the filling and the tooth. The bacteria in your mouth that cause decay can crawl into this gap and infect your tooth. Another problem with the constant expansion and contraction of your filling is that it puts stress on the walls of your tooth and can lead to fractures of your teeth.
There are so many other tooth colored; esthetic options available for filling your teeth, there really is no need to use this type of toxic filling material in your or your loved ones mouths. To schedule a no charge consultation with SmileOn Dentistry to discuss all of the white, tooth colored options for filling your teeth, click HERE.
Does SmileOn Dentistry place Silver Mercury Fillings?
No. SmileOn Dentistry has not placed a silver mercury filling since the early 1990’s. Sorry, but if you want to have a poisonous silver mercury filling placed in your mouth, you will have to go to another dentist. Because there are so many safe, healthy and long lasting alternative filling materials that are available to restore your tooth, other than poisonous silver mercury fillings, SmileOn Dentistry has decided it would be unethical to put anything that is toxic in his patients’ mouths.