Amalgam– also known as silver filling – was one of the most common materials used to fill cavities. Amalgam is composed of various metals – including silver, tin, copper, zinc, indium or palladium. It’s been used for over 100 years to eliminate cavities. Even today, some dentists still use amalgam to treat cavities. This type of teeth filling is so popular because it’s stronger than other metals when used as fillings. It’s also cheaper.
But over the years, health concerns were raised over the safety of amalgam fillings. That’s because a small amount of mercury is used to create the filling. Some reports allege that mercury could slowly leak out from the filling, causing mercury poisoning. As such, most health experts recommend using tooth-colored fillings to restore teeth.
Mercury is a heavy metal with a liquid form in room temperature. It’s been widely used for industrial and medicinal purposes. Mercury is extremely pliant, it makes the filling pliable. When mixed with alloy powder, it creates a soft, putty-like compound. This makes the amalgam easy to apply than other tooth filling. Once the amalgam is hardened, it can withstand extreme pressure – including constant chewing or biting.
However, this heavy metal is toxic to human health. As such, it should be handled with care. This metal can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes. It can cause chronic and acute poisoning. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include irritability, anxiety, memory loss and severe headaches.
Safety Concerns and Risks
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, there is no reason to limit the use of silver fillings. Their conclusion came after reviewing several studies alleging that silver fillings are toxic to human health. The agency clarified that amalgam fillings are safe for children 6 years old and above as well as adults.
Because mercury occurs naturally in the environment, it’s present in the food we eat, the air we breathe and even the water we drink. Mercury can build up in the body organs, causing chronic diseases. However, the toxicity of mercury depends on the level of exposure. In very small amount, the substance isn’t as dangerous.
Should You Remove Amalgam Fillings?
Some health experts believe that amalgam fillings will release mercury vapor with every bite. The vapor is then absorbed into the bloodstream, reaching major organs like the lungs or heart.
However, studies show that even if you have 15 amalgam fillings, the vapor emitted by the fillings is still too low to be a health concern. Most studies cannot find the link between certain health problems and amalgam fillings. Only those who are allergic to mercury (3% of the population) should consider getting the fillings removed.
The scientific committee of the European Commission also confirmed that there is no evidence that amalgam fillings cause health problems. Most health experts agree, as long as the filling is in good condition, don’t remove it. Removal will only lead to tooth loss. That said, pregnant women getting their cavities filled in should consider getting alternatives to silver fillings.