Silver Amalgam

What is dental amalgam?

Most people recognize dental amalgams as silver fillings. Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury, and an alloy of silver, tin and copper. Mercury makes up about 45-50 percent of the compound. Mercury is used to bind the metals together and to provide a strong, hard durable filling. After years of research, mercury has been found to be the only element that will bind these metals together in such a way that can be easily manipulated into a tooth cavity.

Is mercury in dental amalgam safe?

Mercury in dental amalgam is not poisonous. When mercury is combined with other materials in dental amalgam, its chemical nature changes, so it is essentially harmless. The amount released in the mouth under the pressure of chewing and grinding is extremely small and no cause for alarm. In fact, it is less than what patients are exposed to in food, air, and water.Ongoing scientific studies conducted over the past 100 years continue to prove that amalgam is not harmful. Claims of diseases caused by mercury in amalgam are anecdotal, as are claims of miraculous cures achieved by removing amalgam. These claims have not been proven scientifically.

Why do dentists use dental amalgams?

Dental amalgam has withstood the test of time, which is why it is the material of choice. It has a 150-year proven track record and is still one of the safest, durable and least expensive materials to a fill a cavity. It is estimated that more than 1 billion amalgam restorations (fillings) are placed annually. Dentists use dental amalgams because it is easier to work with than other alternatives. Some patients prefer dental amalgam to other alternatives because of its safety, cost-effectiveness (especially in our country), and ability to be placed in the tooth cavity quickly.

Why don’t dentists use alternatives to amalgam?

Alternatives to amalgam, such as cast gold restorations, porcelain, and composite resins are more costly. Gold and porcelain restorations take longer to make and can require two appointments. Composite resins, or white fillings, are esthetically appealing, but require a longer time to place the restoration. It should also be known that these materials, with the exception of gold, are not as durable as amalgam.

What about patients allergic to mercury?

The incidence of allergy to mercury is less than one percent of the population. People suspected of having an allergy to mercury should receive tests by qualified physicians, and, when necessary, seek appropriate alternatives. Should patients have amalgams removed? No. To do so, without need, would result in unnecessary expense, and potential injury to teeth.

What are other sources of mercury?

Mercury can be found in air, food, and water. We are exposed to higher levels of mercury from these sources than from a mouthful of amalgam.

Silver amalgam fillings

Home Care: after silver amalgam fillings

  • Once placed, it can take up to two weeks for your filling to harden completely. So do NOT chew on this surface for the first 24 hours after placement. You may however, safely chew on it after 24 hours. Remember to chew carefully.
  • The tooth may be sensitive to hot and cold liquids and foods for the first four to six weeks or longer.
  • Be careful not the chew or bite your lip or gums because this area is numb. Avoid hot or spicy foods until the numbness wears off.
  • It may be difficult to make sure the bite is correct due to being numb. If you feel the bite is “high” don’t wait…call us to have it adjusted. Teeth can become quite sensitive if the bite is too high. 40,000 pounds per square inch is exerted when chewing on your back teeth which can make this area sore and tender quite quickly. New fillings cannot stand this kind of pressure and may break.
  • If you grind your teeth, mention it to us so that the need for a protective device can be considered to protect your fillings and teeth.
  • Avoid eating foods that may stress fillings. Ice, hard and sticky foods should be eaten with caution or avoided entirely.
  • Keep in mind that, like other sticky foods, chewing gum may place stress on fillings.
  • Brush twice a day, especially before going to bed and floss once a day.
  • Visit us twice a year keep your mouth in great care.