Almost every day, some one asks me about mercury fillings. Amalgam, or silver fillings, contain 40-50% mercury, along with small amounts of copper, tin, zinc, silver, and other metals.
Amalgam has been used for more than 100 years, and there is much debate to the safety of this product. There are many dentists, physicians, and other groups who believe this product should not be used anymore. Mercury is a known toxin which causes cell damage and a multitude of other problems, which are too long to discuss in this blog. One large filling contains about the same amount of mercury as a thermometer! (In case you have not noticed, they no longer make mercury thermometers! Why?)
When a dentist orders amalgam, it comes in a container that contains warnings on the label. The label has handling instructions which tell the dentist to handle with care, always wear gloves, masks, and eye protection. It also states to store the extra material is a lead container, in a well ventilated room. At this time, amalgam is not allowed to be used on children or women who are pregnant. So, this leads me to ask, why is it okay to use on others? Recently, laws have been passed that will require dentists, who use amalgam, to have their patients sign a consent form stating that they understand they are about to receive a product that contains mercury, which is a known toxin to the body.
This is not the only reason why we have chosen not to use silver fillings. Mercury fillings continue to expand after they are placed into the tooth. In dental terminology, this is called, “creep.” A dentist uses a drill to remove the cavity, which leaves a hole in the tooth. The mercury filling is then placed into the hole of the tooth, and immediately starts expanding. As it expands, the mercury filling puts pressure on the remaining, natural tooth structure. This will eventually cause the tooth the crack; therefore, weakening the tooth. Then, one day you will bite down and break off half of the tooth.
Typically, this will require a crown, or cap, which covers the entire tooth. Unfortunately, this is not the end of the problem. Studies have shown that 10-20% of all crowns will require root canal treatment. To perform the root canal, a hole will be drilled through the crown, which weakens the crown and may need to be replaced. So, one mercury filling led to a crown, root canal, and a second crown, not to mention all the stress and frustration you went through!
In some cases, the tooth will break in such a way, that we are unable to restore it, and we have to remove the tooth. This can lead to drifting of other teeth, which will cause bite problems and “TMJ.” To replace the missing tooth would involve more extensive treatment, such as a bridge or implant.
Composite and ceramics, such as porcelain, are alternative treatment options to amalgam fillings. They do not contain mercury, they do not expand, and they are tooth colored. Their properties are very similar to the strength of natural tooth structure; therefore, they do not cause the tooth to fracture. In a sense, they “rebuild” the tooth to its natural strength. I do not have to crown, or cap, the entire tooth, which has drastically decreased the amount of root canals needed.
To summarize, We have chosen not to use amalgam anymore because they contain mercury and because they expand, which leads to a lot of unnecessary dentistry. Utilizing tooth colored fillings, or ceramic fillings with the CEREC machine, I am able to conservatively restore teeth to their natural strength and beauty.
As always, your health is our main concern. If you have any questions, or concerns, please let us know, as we are always here for you!