You weren’t very happy about it when your dentist filled that cavity. Then, you started hearing about what makes up an amalgam filling—which is what your dentist used on your cavity—and you weren’t just unhappy, you were concerned.
What is an amalgam filling?
Amalgam fillings have been used for over 100 years, and have been placed into countless numbers of teeth.
A dental amalgam is made up of different metals, including liquid mercury, silver, copper, and tin. Because of this metal, the filling has a silver color.
There are quite a few benefits to amalgam fillings—for one thing, they are inexpensive. They are also strong and durable and last longer than other kinds of fillings.
Are my amalgam fillings dangerous?
For all of the benefits of amalgam fillings, there are, of course, some concerns as well.
If you are allergic to any of the metals that make up your fillings, you may be worried that they may cause an allergic reaction. However, such reactions are rare.
You may also notice a sharp pain when you close your mouth, right on the tooth with the filling. The reason for this could be because you have two different kinds of metals in your mouth—for instance, if an amalgam filling in your bottom tooth touches a gold crown on your top tooth. The pain shouldn’t last long, and although it’s annoying, this is nothing to worry about.
By far the biggest worry for people with amalgam fillings is what they are made of. It may make you nervous to know that you have mercury sitting in your mouth. And, yes—dental amalgams do release mercury vapors that you inhale. However, these levels are very low—much lower than the amount of mercury it would take to do any damage to your body.
The FDA considers these types of fillings to be safe for adults, and even for children who are age 6 and older. According to the FDA, even if someone has as many as 15 amalgam fillings, the level of mercury is safe.
Why do they use mercury in amalgams if it could be dangerous?
The kind of mercury used in amalgams is not as toxic as other kinds. For instance, the mercury that makes fish dangerous to eat is methyl mercury, which causes problems because it is absorbed through the digestive system. The mercury in amalgams is elemental mercury. This kind of mercury is used because not only has it been shown to be safe, but it also makes amalgams strong and solid.
What if I’m still not crazy about having mercury in my mouth? Should I have my amalgam fillings taken out?
As long as your fillings are in one piece, are in good shape, and aren’t causing you any pain, there is no reason to have them taken out. In fact, if you want to have your fillings removed because you are worried about the mercury in them, you should know that you would be exposed to additional mercury vapor during the removal process.
What other kinds of fillings are there?
There are other types of fillings, such as composite resin, porcelain, and gold. Some materials can even be tooth colored, so you don’t have to worry about the appearance of your teeth. However, the type of filling your dentist wants to use can depend on several things, such as the location of the cavity and how bad it is. It can also depend on what your insurance will pay for.
Of course, if you still have concerns about amalgam fillings, your dentist should be able to answer any questions you have.