There are many contradicting opinions on the use of dental amalgams. Some people swear by their benefits, while others claim that they can cause various health problems. And while most research suggests that exposure to mercury from dental amalgam has no adverse health effects on the general population, other studies reveal that even the small number of toxins released by amalgam fillings can lead to long-term brain damage.
What Are Silver Fillings?
Dental amalgam is a type of dental filling material used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. They are sometimes referred to as “silver dental fillings” because of their silver-like appearance. Dental amalgam is a metal combination made of liquid (elemental) mercury and a powdered alloy of silver, tin, and copper. Elemental mercury’s chemical characteristics allow it to react with and bind together the silver/copper/tin alloy particles to produce an amalgam. By weight, dental amalgam contains approximately half (50%) elemental mercury.
Facts About Silver Fillings
Amalgam dental fillings have been used by dentists for about 150 years and continue to be popular because of their inexpensive cost, simplicity of application, strength, durability, and bacteriostatic action. Nonetheless, there has been some concern that amalgam causes mercury poisoning. The most common source of mercury exposure from dental amalgam is during the implantation or removal of restoration in the tooth. Even though amalgam can cause delayed hypersensitivity reactions in certain people, adverse health consequences can be reduced if suggested hygiene precautions with mercury are followed.
What Is Mercury?
Mercury is an element found in rock in the Earth’s crust, including coal deposits. It is represented in the periodic table of elements by the symbol “Hg”, and its atomic number is 80. It comes in numerous varieties:
- Metallic (elemental) mercury
- Inorganic mercury compounds
- Methylmercury, as well as other chemical substances
Facts About Mercury
While it’s an incredibly uncommon element, there are a lot of fascinating facts about mercury.
- Mercury is a highly uncommon element found in the Earth’s crust. It’s named after the Roman god Mercury.
- At Earth’s normal temperature and pressure, mercury is the only metal that is a liquid.
- Even though mercury is incredibly hazardous, it has been used therapeutically throughout history.
- Mercury is normally not permitted aboard aeroplanes because it quickly mixes with aluminium, a metal commonly found on aircraft.
- Most acids do not react with mercury.
Why Is Mercury Used in Fillings?
A dental amalgam filling consists of half liquid mercury and half a powdered alloy of silver, tin, and copper. Mercury is utilised to bind the alloy particles together, resulting in an as fit as a mallee bull, long-lasting, and firm filling. Because of its particular qualities (it is a liquid at room temperature that combines effectively with the alloy powder), mercury is a key component of dental amalgam, contributing to its durability.
How Mercury Fillings Poison Your Body?
Research reviewed by the FDA over the past two decades reveals uncertainties about the consequences of mercury exposure from dental amalgam. The majority of research indicates that exposure to mercury from dental amalgam has no adverse health consequences in the general population. However, mercury exposure may provide a more significant health risk in specific categories of people, who may be more vulnerable to the possible negative consequences linked with mercury in general.
Research conducted by the University of Washington discovered that even the small level of toxins released by amalgam fillings might lead to long-term brain damage over time. Another study found that the number of teeth filled with amalgam was directly connected with increased inorganic mercury concentration in the brain during post-mortem exams on many patients.
High-risk groups include:
- Pregnant women
- Women who want to become pregnant
- Unborn foetuses
- Children younger than six years of age
- Nursing women and their newborns and infants
- People with heightened sensitivity (allergies) to mercury or other dental amalgam components (silver, copper, tin).
- People with pre-existing neurological disease
- People with impaired kidney function
What Can You Do About It?
While some studies indicate that the amount of mercury released by the simple use of dental amalgams is insufficient to cause any harm to humans, other studies suggest that over time, the small level of toxins released by amalgam fillings may contribute to long-term brain damage.
The best news is that you can prevent the need for fillings in the first place by preventing tooth decay. Plus, you should be aware that many filling material options are available.
Make an appointment with a specialist dentist to advise you on the best filling material to repair your teeth, and continue to see your dentist for frequent check-ups so your fillings can be monitored.