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Metal was once the most commonly used dental material used to fill cavities and repair damage. However, amalgam fillings are less popular than they used to be for a variety of reasons. If you currently have fillings that contain amalgam, you may have been told you should have them removed and replaced with newer composites. The reality is, there are several important factors to consider before deciding which material to use.
Amalgam is an alloy made with several different kinds of metals, including nickel, tin, silver, and mercury. Metal-containing amalgams have been in use as dental fillers for centuries. However, it’s only in the last few decades that concerns over potential toxicity have meant that amalgam is falling out of favor with both dentists and their patients.
It’s the mercury in the amalgam that remains a concern, and when fillings break down or become dislodged from a tooth, the metal can enter the body through inhalation or ingestion. Mercury is a highly toxic metal that many people contribute to a variety of health issues such as immune system disorders, hormone problems, and other systemic problems. On the other hand, some medical research studies suggest that having amalgam fillings does not result in toxic side-effects. However, it’s unclear whether or not this may lead to a toxic level of mercury exposure. With no real definitive proof, it’s easy to understand how people might prefer to avoid having any metal in their mouths.
The question of whether amalgam fillings need replacing is still controversial. If the amalgam fillings you have are in good condition and are not worn or chipped or broken, then it may be better for those fillings to remain in place. In some cases removing fillings that are in good condition might lead to unnecessary mercury exposure. This exposure can occur if the correct techniques and precautions are not available to safely remove minute particles released during the procedure.
However, if you have amalgam fillings that are deteriorating, it may be wise to consider having them removed and replaced with biocompatible resin. If you need to have, any amalgam removed, be sure to thoroughly research the topic and find a professional dentist with plenty of experience and a stellar reputation.
Most dentists today use biocompatible resins or porcelain for most of their restorative procedures. Metal is still used but reserved for unique circumstances, such as teeth that are under extreme pressure from grinding. A resin and metal combination can also be used as a more economical option for those who cannot afford the higher costs of resin and porcelain.
In the end, it comes down to a personal choice. Do you trust the believable but criticized patient accounts of the damage credited to mercury, or the limited medical studies from traditional sources? Is it worth the risk?