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Are Amalgam (Silver) Fillings Safe?
The somewhat official position of the dental profession. Dentists have been restoring teeth using a material that is a blending of silver, copper, tin, zinc and elemental mercury (acting as the binding agent) for more than 100 years. Mixing these materials together results in a restorative material that is commonly referred to as amalgam.
The last twenty-five years has resulted in society developing an increased awareness of health issues and the consequences of the thngs we do and place in our bodies. The increased awareness has resulted in groups within in the various medical professions expressing concern about the safety of restorations that contain mercury. The controversy is due to claims that the exposure to the vapor and minute particles from the mercury can cause a variety of health problems.
The ADA responded to these concerns by citing several studies that failed to find a direct causal link between restorations containing mercury and any medical disorder. The ADA assures the public that amalgam fillings are safe.
The ADA maintains that when the mercury combines with the other components of the filling, mercury becomes an inactive substance that is safe.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), up to 76% of dentists continue to provide amalgam restorations.
Along with the ADA’s position, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, the FDA, and others support the use of silver fillings as safe, durable, and cost effective. The U.S. Public Health Service says that the only reason not to use silver fillings is when a patient has an allergy to any component of this type of filling. The ADA also states that there have been fewer than 100 cases that demonstrate an allergy to the components of amalgam restorations...and this is out of the millions of amalgam restorations that have been provided over the decades. The consensus of the government and professional organizations is that amalgam fillings are safe.
My Personal Opinion
Although studies indicate that there are no measurable health risks to patients who have silver fillings, mercury is a toxic material when we are exposed at high levels. For instance, we have been warned to limit the consumption of certain types of fish that carry high levels of mercury in them. Other items, such as thermometers that contained mercury, have been removed from the market because of the concern that the item would break and expose the consumer to the elemental mercury.
I believe that replacing old and leaky fillings with a tooth-colored filling, porcelain inlay/onlay, or a metal-free crown should be considered for your health and comfort and before bacteria and tooth decay has been given the chance to cause a cracked or painful tooth. But I can not make that recommendation to everyone because of the position that has been taken by the government and professional organizations I can not recommend the removal of amalgam fillings based on any concern that I have for the mercury that is used in the filling material. With advances in dental materials, approximately ten years ago I decided to discontinue providing amalgam restorations in my practice. There are numerous options to silver fillings, including composite (tooth-colored), porcelain, and gold fillings. I encourage you to discuss these options with us so you can determine which is the best option for you.
Removal of Amalgam
I am not an expert, but I think the removal of amalgam restorations should taken very seriously. Hal Huggins, DDS have developed a method for determining the electromotive potential (voltage) for each amalgam restoration and recommends the removal of amalgam based on this information.
When I built this office I made sure I had one of the highest possible commercial-grade dental vacuum systems available to safely capture mercury fragments when removing old fillings. And yes, we can also use a Rubber Dam, coupled with a high intensity focused water spray to further protect you from swallowing mercury-amalgam fragments, and vaporization.
If you are planning to have several amalgam restorations removed at the same time you will want to consider additional vitamins, minterals, and chelation therapy for a period of time before and after the removal of the amalgam filings. I recommend a consultation with Nicole Berreda, NMD if you have any questions or concerns about diet, nutritional support, and chelation therapy during amalgam removal.
In most cases, your amalgam restorations can be removed in a very short time - gently and safely! Replacing them with a restorative material that is tooth-colored, durable, and does not have any metal. These restorations will make your teeth, and your smile look years younger!
You will have two options when you decide to remove your old and unsightly amalgam restorations -- composite resin or all ceramic/porcelain. Your situation will dictate the best treatment option.
Composite resin has been around for many years. The improvements in this material since I placed my first composite restoration are dramatic. There are many options for color -- ar shade selection used to be light - medium - dark. There are also many options for polish vs wearability (micro-filled / hybrid / macro-filled)
The ceramic material has also been around for a long time. Dentistry has made a lot of advances in the last twenty years so that the ceramic material can be bonded to tooth structure. There are many research projects that demonstrate the bond of porcelain to tooth can actually be stronger than tooth to tooth.
Composite Resin Restorations
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BEFORE All the old and unsightly Mercury-Amalgam fillings can be quickly and safely removed in Dr. Wilkinson's office! 30 MINUTES LATER! Totally Mercury-free White bonded fillings. Dr. Wilkinson uses the new white-bonded fillers for greater strength and more natural-looking aesthetics!) Porcelain (Lava) Crowns
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BEFORE: The first step is to safely remove the mercury-containing fillings with a rubber dam. AFTER: Lava Crowns or all Porcelain Crowns are Metal-Free!
To schedule a free Lava Crown Consultation (reg. $75), contact Dr. Wilkinson's Cosmetic Dental Office at: 520.723.3801 (Free consultation offer good only through December 31, 2016)
A few more words about mercury-containing fillings...
Did you know that one of the few legal places to 'dump mercury' in the country... is in our mouth?
Courtesy of those unsightly mercury-silver (amalgam) fillings so many of us have. Those unsightly restorations contain from 48% to 55% mercury, plus 33 to 35% silver, and various amounts of copper, tin, and zinc. Since mercury is the major component of the filling, any representation of the material should include the word 'mercury'. We therefore refer to them as mercury or mercury-silver fillings.
My mercury-silver fillings are wearing out. Should I do anything about it? Is there tooth decay under them?
Everything wears out eventually, and one's old, dark-colored, mercury-silver fillings are no exception. These old restorations must endure an incredible amount of biting force, and as they age, they wear down, disintegrate and sometimes break. More subtly, fillings "leak," which means narrow gaps and spaces develop where the filling meets the tooth. This allows bacteria to get underneath your old fillings. Sometimes, even the tooth around a filling can break under a heavy bite or night-grinding! When old fillings "leak", bacteria can easily get under old fillings and produce TOOTH DECAY! However, you will not be able to get your toothbrush underneath the filling to keep it clean. Eventually, this bacteria and tooth decay can infect and kill off the nerve in the root, producing an abscess. An abscess can often cause pain, and tooth loss.
Note: As of 2004, five countries have banned amalgams for dental use. Two other countries don't allow their placement in pregnant women or children under six. Amalgams are similar to using putty to patch a hole. They do not bond to the tooth and this allows leakage. Some studies have shown that 90% of all silver fillings that look OK in a dentist's clinical exam and on the X-ray may have some decay under them.
If you would like to know more about amalgam and how it relates to your dental health call us at (520)723-3801.