Antioch Family Dentist Shares Common Safety Concerns
Restoring cavities with amalgam fillings is one of the most common procedures in dentistry. This type of filling material has been around for over 100 years and its use is still widespread across the world. Also called “silver” fillings due their appearance, amalgams are actually a mixture of different metals—hence the name “amalgam”. In recent years there has been considerable debate among dental professionals and in the court of pubic opinion regarding the safety of silver fillings due to one of their primary constituents: mercury. Elemental mercury has long been understood to be toxic to the human body, leading many to question the use of amalgam fillings.
Why Mercury is Used in Dental Amalgams
Although referred to as silver fillings, amalgams actually contain tin, copper, and mercury in addition to silver. The material itself comes in small capsules. Inside the inactivated capsule, the metals are in a powder-like form, except for mercury. The capsules are mixed in a special machine, which makes the material puddy-like so that the dentist can place it into the tooth as it hardens. The liquid mercury within the capsule is what activates the reaction among all the metals and causes the hardening of the filling.
The Truth About Amalgam Safety
It is known that during the placement of the amalgam, trace amounts of mercury vapors are released and potentially inhaled by patient and dentist alike. It is also known that mercury can accumulate in the body over time. Over the past few decades, an abundance of research has been done to assess the safety of mercury in silver fillings. To date, there have been no findings concluding that amalgam fillings are toxic or in any way unsafe. The FDA advises that amalgams not be used in children under 6, but that is only a recommendation and not based on evidence of danger.
Skeptics may argue that dentists themselves are the conductors of such studies, which is a conflict of interest that results in favorable outcomes for dental professionals. However, amalgams are generally very long-lived, and are the least expensive material/treatment for cavities. That being the case, dentists are actually at an economic disadvantage in regards to amalgam. In other words, from a purely business perspective, dentists would benefit from amalgam being deemed unsafe, yet is used around the world every day.
Each person must make their own decisions about what type of dental treatment suits them and their beliefs. However, there have never been any recorded cases or evidence of negative side effects related to the use of amalgam fillings.
Have questions for your Antioch family dentist? Please give East Bay Dental Care a call at (925) 777-1719.