Do dark, unsightly fillings in your mouth cause you embarrassment and hold you back when you want to show off your biggest smile or laugh with abandon? Tooth colored fillings are an excellent option to replace metal fillings and enhance your smile.
Have you heard that the mercury in metal fillings can cause health issues, and you wonder if it’s true?
Today, we will discuss if you should replace metal amalgam fillings.
What are amalgam fillings?
Metal fillings, also called silver fillings due to their color, have been used to fill cavities for over 150 years. They are made from a combination of liquid mercury and a powder containing silver, copper, and tin. When the liquid and powder are combined, it forms an amalgam putty.
When you have a cavity, your dentist will first remove the decay and shape the tooth to prepare it for the filling. Next, he will place the putty into the prepared cavity and sculpt it into the proper shape. The putty will then harden, restoring your tooth’s function and strength.
Is mercury safe?
Amalgam fillings release elemental mercury as a vapor, which can then be inhaled into the lungs and absorbed into the blood.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists mercury as one of the top ten chemicals of public health concern. They report exposure to even small amounts of mercury can cause serious health issues, potentially affecting the kidneys, lungs, and digestive, nervous, and immune systems.
There are three different types of mercury:
- Elemental (such as found in amalgams)
- Inorganic (exposure usually occurs through occupations)
- Organic (exposed through diet, such as eating fish)
While WHO reports the highest risk from mercury occurs through diet or occupational exposure, it does recommend a “phase down” in the use of elemental mercury.
It is estimated that amalgam is approximately 50% mercury, which makes some people wonder if amalgam can do more harm than good. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers amalgam fillings safe for adults and children over six years of age.
The FDA insists that the amount of mercury released is low and falls below what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe.
Another consideration is for patients who are allergic to the components of silver fillings. Allergies can cause contact reactions, such as oral lesions. If you have metal allergies, you should not receive metal fillings, and any metal fillings should be replaced.
Benefits of Metallic Fillings
While some people voice concerns over amalgams, they do have some benefits.
Metal fillings are extremely strong, which makes them less likely to fail or break than other fillings. This also makes them a good option for back teeth, as they can withstand the pressure of heavy chewing. They can also handle the force of clenching and grinding teeth–a condition knows as bruxism.
Another benefit is that they work well in areas that are difficult to get completely dry. While the tooth must be completely dry for a composite resin filling, that is not a problem for amalgam.
Finally, amalgams are the most economical option available.
Reasons to Replace Metal Fillings
The best reason to replace a filling is if it is broken, failed, or defective. It should also be replaced if there is decay around it, as decay can get under the filling and cause an abscess.
You may also consider how long you have had the filling. Since amalgams tend to last 10-15 years, if your filling is a decade old or older, it may be wise to go ahead and replace it.
Some patients don’t like the way silver fillings look, and they choose to replace them for cosmetic reasons.
Moreover, amalgams adjust to changes in temperature. For instance, if you eat something cold, like ice cream, they contract, creating a gap around the filling. And consuming hot foods and beverages expands them, placing strain on your tooth. These constant adjustments can weaken or even crack your tooth.
Unless your filling needs replacement, the decision comes down to your feelings regarding functionality, esthetics, comfort, and your level of concern over potential health issues.
Best option to replace metallic fillings
If you want to replace old fillings, the best option is white fillings. Since this material can be shaded to match your tooth, they are practically invisible when you smile and laugh.
Unlike amalgam, which fills a cavity much the same way a pothole is filled, composite fillings are designed to bond to your tooth. This makes them work with, rather than against, your tooth, resulting in an even distribution of force with biting and chewing.
Call Us Today
If you want professional guidance on whether you should replace metal fillings, Chicago area dentist Dr. James Fondriest can offer sound advice you can trust.
Call (847) 234-0517 today to speak with one of our friendly team members or schedule an appointment for another opinion.