A few decades ago, you would find many people who had their damaged teeth restored with silver fillings. In fact, they were the most commonly used option for restoring crooked or chipped teeth. But things have changed now! Composite fillings have taken the place of the traditional silver fillings. Have you ever wondered why? Are silver amalgam filings safe for use in the oral cavity? Can they still be used? Continue reading to find out!
The silver fillings, also known as the amalgam fillings, are metallic restorative materials that are made by mixing different metals to form an alloy. Mercury, a liquid metallic material, is mixed with silver, copper, and zinc to form an alloy that sets to form a hard, durable material. But why do many dentists say that silver fillings are harmful to your health? This is because they contain mercury! Mercury, if inhaled or ingested in high doses, can cause significant health issues such as respiratory, gastrointestinal, and even neurological problems.
Why Have Some Countries banned silver Amalgam Fillings?
Most European countries have banned the use of silver fillings due to health concerns associated with the release of mercury, especially from the old or damaged fillings. But, are silver Amalgam fillings harmful to you? Let us look at what the American Dental Association (ADA) has to say about it. “Be assured that credible scientific studies affirm the safety of dental amalgam. Study after study shows amalgam is safe and effective for filling cavities”. Similarly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that “FDA has reviewed the best available scientific evidence to determine whether the low levels of mercury vapor associated with dental amalgam fillings are a cause for concern. Based on this evidence, the FDA considers dental amalgam fillings safe for adults and children ages six and above.
Silver Fillings Do Have Some Advantages
So, it is pretty clear now that silver fillings are absolutely safe for use inside the oral cavity, and the amount of mercury released from dental fillings is not enough to cause any untoward effect. In fact, the silver amalgam fillings tend to have several advantages over the contemporary composite filling materials.
- Durability – silver amalgam fillings are incredibly durable. With proper care and oral hygiene maintenance, they can last for many years, even for a lifetime.
- Strength – amalgam fillings are very strong; they do not break easily, even if you eat very hard foods such as nuts and dry fruits. They are particularly suitable for the back teeth, which have to bear very high biting forces.
- Cost-effective – silver amalgam fillings are less expensive than the contemporary fillings such as the composite resins and glass ionomer cements.
Is it Necessary to Remove Old Silver Fillings?
There is a school of thought among dentists that existing amalgam fillings must be removed and replaced with tooth-colored composite fillings. If this practice is done purely for cosmetic purposes, then it is justifiable. However, if it is done just because of the concerns over mercury toxicity, then it is not necessary. According to the ADA, there is no need to get your silver fillings removed, as long as they are structurally stable and functioning well.
Currently, there is sufficient scientific evidence available to prove that silver amalgam fillings are safe, and they can be used for restoring damaged teeth without any fear of adverse effects. Considering that the silver fillings are quite durable and strong, and cost-effective, they are still an excellent option for restoring teeth, especially for teeth where esthetics are not important.