Must all silver amalgam fillings which contain mercury be replaced? Has your dentists suggested replacing all of yours? This is a hot button issue among dental professionals in the U.S. Is there enough mercury in silver amalgam fillings to cause illness? Are there facts that prove mercury leaches from silver fillings and causes illness? If so, how much mercury is too much? Is it safe to remove amalgam fillings? Are people worrying over nothing? Does the general public even know or care about mercury in their silver amalgam fillings? Your Lake Forest Dentist, Dr. Fondriest will try to answer some of these questions in today’s blog.
How Much Mercury Is Too Much?
A survey given to American citizens found that 72% of people in the U.S. did not know that silver amalgam fillings contained mercury. When they learned of the issue, they wondered why they weren’t told when the fillings were first placed. After all, silver amalgam fillings have been used for over 150 years in hundreds of millions of people. So what is mercury and how much is in silver fillings? Organic Methyl Mercury is a neurotoxin, a toxic substance that can block the function of neurons in your nervous system. Depending on the level of exposure, it is believed that neurotoxins can cause harmless symptoms like dizziness and nausea, to more seriously debilitating conditions such as loss of motor control, visual impairments, paralysis, seizures, strokes, autoimmune diseases, chronic illnesses, and mental disorders.
Silver amalgam fillings consist of 50 percent inorganic metallic mercury and an amalgam (combination) of other metals including silver, copper, and tin. The amount of mercury vapor leaching from amalgam can vary from 1 to 3 micrograms a day up to 27 a day. The higher end equates to levels of exposure that can be considered unhealthy. In addition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) this amount can increase fivefold based on personal habits such as chewing gum, drinking carbonated drinks, and bruxing (teeth grinding). Unfortunately, the WHO does not distinguish between organic and inorganic mercury in their studies. Organic mercury is hundreds fold more toxic than inorganic mercury. In other studies, much larger doses of inorganic mercury have been show non-problematic for dental use.
Despite a US National Health and Nutrition Examination survey that found that the incidences of neurological diseases such as MS, respiratory diseases, eye diseases, thyroid conditions, mental conditions, and cancer correlated with the number of silver amalgam fillings in 31,000 adult participants, the FDA and ADA posit that amalgam is a safe restorative material.
Amount of Mercury Release
It is known that mercury release is highest:
- When silver amalgam fillings are placed
- When silver amalgam fillings are removed
- According to the age of the fillings
- Based on the number of fillings
- According to diet
- In correlation to amount of acidic beverages a person drinks
- In bruxers
Should I remove my silver fillings?
This controversy unfortunately has moved out of the scientific community and into the social media hearsay domain. The science is not clear and inconclusive at this time. More research needs to be conducted to fully understand whether or not, and if so to what extent, mercury vapors affect the health of those with silver amalgam fillings. Silver fillings are certainly not a first choice for new fillings for most patients at this time.
On rare occasions, when isolation is difficult, even the most cosmetically oriented dentist will choose an amalgam filling. Amalgams work great even in a wet environment. Silver fillings are very long lasting restorations and are cheaper than white fillings. The majority of dentists still agree that silver lasts longer than the newer tooth colored composite fillings. Dr. Fondriest believes in letting the patient decide and during the planning for your care we strongly believe in a collaborative decision.
It is probably not necessary to have your silver amalgam fillings removed unless:
- They are causing gingival inflammation
- Flossing is uncomfortable or painful around the filled tooth
- Decay is present underneath the filling
If you are worried about your existing silver fillings, we invite you to discuss treatment options with Dr. Fondriest. There are many ceramic and metal alloy options available to create long lasting restorations. Occasionally, the dentist chooses between a crown and a filling. Today, most fillings will be done with composite resins.
Aside from providing dependable general and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriestand also holds respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.
Dr Fondriest is a Nationally recognized and highly sought after cosmetic dentist serving clients from throughout the United States