Mercury (Silver) Fillings: Everything You Need To Know

For more than a century amalgams (silver fillings) have been widely used to repair worn, damaged or decayed teeth.

Dentists use amalgam because of its low cost, strength, durability and its effectiveness as a restorative treatment for severely damaged teeth and cavities located below the gum line.

Dental amalgam consists of a mixture of elemental mercury (50% of total content), silver, tin, copper and other metals. When mercury is mixed with an alloy powder it forms a compound that is a pliable, putty-like substance. This compound is then pressed into the tooth where it quickly hardens to form a durable filling that can withstand the stresses of chewing and grinding.

Concern has been raised regarding exposure to the very small amounts of mercury vapors that emanate from dental fillings. The major U.S. and international scientific and health bodies including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have found no evidence that the amount of mercury vapor released during placement or after has any adverse health effects. This is because the mercury in amalgam combines with other metals making it safe for use in filling teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) provides recommendations to your dentist for mercury hygiene procedures that minimize unnecessary exposure.

Dental Amalgam Advantages:

  • Durability: Amalgam works best on molars in the back of the mouth where the chewing load is greatest.
  • Strength: It is one of the strongest restorative applications available.
  • Long Life: Amalgam has greater longevity than other direct restorative materials.
  • Ease of placement: Due to its pliable nature amalgam is easier to place in the tooth. This is useful in areas where it’s difficult to keep the preparation area dry such as cavities located below the gum line.
  • Resistance to decay: Amalgam is self-sealing and resists leakage that would promote new decay behind or beneath the filling.
  • Cost: Compared to alternatives, amalgam is relatively inexpensive.
  • Reaction: This substance is well tolerated by patients. There is a very low occurrence of allergic reactions.
  • Convenience: Treatment can be completed in one dental visit.

Dental Amalgam DisAdvantages:

  • Esthetics: Amalgam can darken over time becoming less attractive than tooth colored material especially when the restoration is near the front of the mouth.
  • Sensitivity: Patients may experience a short-term sensitivity to hot or cold.
  • Placement: May require the removal of some healthy tooth to make room for the dental filling.

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