Are amalgam ‘silver’ fillings a health hazard?

When dentists talk about silver fillings, it would be reasonable to think that silver makes up most of the filling. In fact silver fillings are up to 55% Mercury. This blog will discuss the three major problems that people have with amlagam “silver” fillings: they contain mercury which is highly toxic, they expand over time leading to cracking and breakage of teeth, and finally they do not look very attractive.

We all know mercury is highly toxic, but it does not have the same high profile as some other toxic heavy metals, for example lead. Reducing the dangers of lead poisoning has led to it being removed from petrol, and lead containing paints are not allowed to be used in the home. But, mercury, more toxic than lead, is still being placed in people’s mouths. The science is clear; that varying amounts of mercury are continually released from these fillings, and the debate centres on the degree to which this is a danger to your general health.

At Avenue Dental Caloundra, we stopped using Mercury / Silver fillings in 1995, moving to the safer materials of Composite Resin and porcelain. These materials will be discussed in a future blog post.

The second problem with amalgam is confined to the tooth itself, and that is breakage or cracking of the tooth due to expansion of the filling after placement. This is a very common problem. At Avenue Dental we see people with teeth that have broken from their amalgam fillings on a daily basis.

While there is a setting expansion when an amalgam filling is placed as the filling turns from the mercury / silver paste to the solid amalgam (3%), the main problem is the continual expansion. This occurs in two ways:

  1. ‘Flow and Creep’ – distortion of the filling from the pressure of many cycles of biting and chewing, and
  2. Corrosion products building up between the side of the filling and the wall of the tooth. As these corrosion products build up they create a pressure on the tooth structure resulting in breakage.

The final problem that people have with amalgam fillings are that they are silver or black in colour. Many people do not like the appearance of these fillings, especially if they are placed in areas that are visible when people smile.

If you would like more information about amalgam fillings please contact Avenue Dental.