We’ve been told that certain metals can be harmful to the human body, and mercury makes this list. So, why is the chemical element found in amalgam dental fillings, and does it pose a threat?
To answer these questions, the team here at Hillsdale Dental Care, under the direction of Drs. Roge Jacob and Magdalena Azzarelli, want to take a closer look at the use of mercury in dentistry, and why we’ve chosen to offer mercury-free dentistry.
Dental fillings are one of our best lines of defense against tooth decay, and we routinely use them to preserve teeth. When decay has created a cavity, we clear away the damage and then plug the hole with a filling.
Fillings, however, need to do much more than simply “fill” the space left behind by tooth decay, as we need to use materials that can stand up to the rigors of chewing.
For the strength we need, dentists have traditionally turned to metal fillings, which are also called amalgam fillings. These fillings contain liquid mercury, which makes up about 50% of the filling, and a powdered mixture of silver, copper, and tin. These ingredients combine together to create a strong filling that can last a lifetime if cared for properly.
The concern when it comes to the mercury content in amalgam fillings is that the liquid mercury may release harmful vapors. In response to concerns, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) conducted studies to determine whether the mercury in dental fillings can accumulate in your body and reach toxic levels.
In the end, the FDA determined that fillings that contain mercury, on their own, aren’t generally harmful to most people’s health. That said, the organization did caution that certain groups may want to avoid amalgam fillings, including:
In addition to the above, anyone who has a known sensitivity or allergy toward mercury would do well to steer clear of amalgam fillings.
Despite the FDA’s findings, many people are still concerned about the use of mercury, and we tend to agree. Our view is that we would rather err on the side of caution, which is why we’ve chosen to go completely mercury-free at our practice.
Instead, we offer a durable, and more aesthetically pleasing, alternative with composite fillings, which we form with a mixture of glass or quartz and plastic resin.
There are several advantages to composite fillings that extend beyond the absence of mercury. First, they are white in color, so they blend in far better with your tooth. Second, composite fillings don’t contain metal, so they don’t react to extreme hot and cold temperatures. Third, we don’t need to remove as much of your tooth.
Ultimately, the safety of our patients is paramount and, with mercury-free dentistry, we can reduce all mercury risks and provide peace of mind.
If you would like to learn more about mercury-free fillings, contact our office in San Jose, California, to set up an appointment.