Amalgam

Overview

As you may be aware, dental amalgam (or silver fillings) has been used for over 100 years to fill cavities. Because amalgam contains mercury, many people are concerned about the safety of this substance. If you are not comfortable with having dental amalgam fillings, you can find newer ones that contain indium. These fillings tend to release less mercury. You can also ask for fillings that contain a higher percentage of copper and less mercury. Aside from this, you may also be interested in porcelain, resin, or gold fillings. Typically, amalgam is stronger and more durable than other materials used for tooth reconstruction.

Why Procedure Is Used

Dental amalgam is used to restore parts of teeth that have been damaged by decay. Dental amalgam is made up of a number of metals. This includes tin, copper, silver, zinc, palladium, and indium as well as mercury. Mercury is used to create a soft material that will take on the exact shape of the cavity. At the same time, the filling will harden quickly and remain durable for years. Today, many dentists only use amalgam when restoration is required on a tooth that is often used for chewing. Many patients also prefer to use amalgam because it is cheaper.

Patient Concerns to be Addressed

If you are concerned about getting amalgam fillings, you should talk to your dentist about your options. While it is not necessary to avoid offices that use mercury, it may be of some help if you have an allergy to this substance.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that many people are concerned about the level of mercury found in dental fillings. Even though this amount is very small, it can cross the placenta barrier. Therefore, if you are pregnant, you should avoid having amalgam fillings.

While an amalgam filling will release some mercury vapour, it is much less than what you would get from other sources. Among other things, many factories burn fuels that contain mercury. This releases it into the air. Once you breathe in mercury, it will start accumulating in your organs. Seafood also contains high levels of mercury. Today, everyone is exposed to mercury in the air, soil, food, and drinking water. In many cases, exposure to mercury can cause memory loss, fatigue, headaches, irritability, and anxiety.

How Procedure is Performed

Since dentists are exposed to high levels of mercury, they will need to take precautions to reduce risk to their health. In most cases, they will make use of special machinery and mercury capsules in order to create your fillings. Once the mercury mixes with the other metals in the filling material, it becomes stable. At that point, it is safe to handle.

When placing mercury fillings, your dentist will be very careful to remove any excess amalgam from your mouth. This is accomplished with machines that act like high suction vacuum cleaners. You will also notice that your dentists office has a special disposal system for mercury fillings.

Post-Operative Concerns

Even though it is rare, some people are allergic to mercury. That said, across time, fewer than 100 cases have ever been found. If you happen to be allergic to mercury, there are other materials that can be used to manage dental reconstruction.

If you currently have amalgam fillings it is best to leave them in place until they wear out or break. Unfortunately, removing them early can cause mercury to be released into your mouth. That said, once you need new fillings, you can always ask the dentist to use a different material.

Perils of Disease

Typically, mercury poisoning is caused by a buildup of this substance in your body. It does not matter where the mercury comes from. Since mercury poisoning is cumulative, there are some situations where you may want to avoid amalgam fillings. In particular, if you eat sea food, or are exposed to high levels of mercury at work, you should ask fro some other type of filling.

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