Using amalgam to correct flaws in the teeth is a practice that has been going on for more than a hundred years. Amalgam is a combination of metals that is used to fill a tooth that has had decay removed.
The most controversial component of amalgam is mercury. By weight, about 50 percent of dental amalgam is mercury, according to the FDA. Silver, tin and copper make up the rest. When the amalgam is first created, it is like putty, so that it can be molded into the space left when a cavity is removed. A reason for the popularity of this procedure is that when the amalgam hardens, the filling is resilient, and it can last for decades.
Mercury is known to be harmful to humans, if it is ingested above a certain level. It is a known neurotoxin and can affect the health. Several countries have outlawed it’s use for fillings. For these reasons, more and more dental professionals are questioning the safety of amalgam, or “silver” fillings as they are sometimes called because of their color.
But mercury isn’t the only issue. Some criticize amalgam because it isn’t naturally adhesive, meaning that the dentist must create appropriate space in a tooth. This often means that large amounts of healthy tooth are removed to secure a filling. Furthermore, amalgam fillings can fall out, leaving vulnerable holes in our teeth.
Some dental professionals also worry about the wedging in of the amalgam putty. The force required and the nature of amalgam may cause hairline fractures in a tooth, and may weaken the tooth as a whole. Because these fillings are not as hard as a human tooth, the pressures placed in the teeth are not evenly distributed when a filling is part of the structure. This can lead to future dental problems. In addition, amalgam expands and contracts according to temperature, meaning that stress is placed on the surrounding tooth, which can lead to cracking.
Fortunately, more and more dentists, like Dr. Chandler in Utah County, are offering services to safely remove amalgam fillings and replace them with a more biocompatible substance, like composite resin or porcelain. Special care must be taken when removing mercury fillings to avoid a large exposure to the toxins. A mercury-safe dentist like Dr. Chandler has been trained in special protocols to protect your health.