What is Amalgam- Silver Coloured Fillings | Kirkland Premier Dentistry
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What is Amalgam- Silver Coloured Fillings

July 19, 2022

What Is Dental Amalgam?

A dental filling material used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay, Amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, copper, tin and zinc used to fill cavities in teeth.

Dental amalgam is approximately 50% elemental mercury, by weight. It is sometimes also called a “silver-filling” because of its appearance.

The procedure of Amalgam Filling

  • The tooth is first drilled by the dentist to remove the decay and then the tooth cavity is shaped for placement of the amalgam filling. 
  • The dentist then, under appropriate safety conditions mixes the encapsulated powdered alloy with the liquid mercury to form an amalgam putty. 
  • The softened amalgam putty is then placed and shaped in the prepared cavity, where it quickly hardens into a solid filling.

What Should I Know Before Getting a Dental Amalgam Filling?

The decision on the dental filling material to be used to treat dental decay is a choice that should be made by the patient and the dentist.

However one should keep in mind the following information about dental amalgam fillings while the options are considered.

Why is Mercury Used in Dental Amalgam?

A dental amalgam filling is approximately half liquid mercury with the other half being a powdered alloy of silver, tin and copper.

Mercury has the unique property of being a liquid at room temperature that helps it to bond well together with the alloy particles together into a strong, durable, and solid filling.

This makes it an essential component of dental amalgam, contributing to its durability.

Is Dental Amalgam Safe?

Minor amounts of mercury in the form of vapour may be released by Dental amalgam fillings. This depends on the number and age of existing fillings plus actions such as tooth grinding & gum chewing.

An increase in exposure to mercury vapour may be experienced when a new amalgam filling is placed or an old filling is removed.

There are no implied health risks related to swallowing small particles of dental amalgam. However, inhaling mercury vapours may be harmful in certain patients.

Usually, slightly higher levels of mercury may be found in the blood or urine of people with numerous dental amalgam fillings.

However, these usually remain within a safe level. According to the studies, people with dental amalgam do not show definitive evidence of dental amalgam causing any harmful health effects.

What are the Main Characteristics of Amalgam Fillings?

Amalgam fillings made of a combination of different metals including silver, tin, copper, and mercury have continued to be used by dentists for a very long time now. The key features of Amalgam fillings are:

  • They are usually the least expensive material for dental fillings.
  • The material of Amalgam fillings is very durable and long-lasting.
  • Their hardening quickly makes the placement faster.

Advantages of Amalgam

  • Being very durable, they can last for over a decade or more with proper care.
  • Their strength makes them suitable to fill large cavities in patients who have a high risk of tooth decay and where moisture makes it difficult for other materials such as resins to establish a bond to the tooth.
  • Their low cost makes them easy on the pocket.
  • Their capability to harden fast can make treatment less stressful, especially for kids or special needs patients.

Also Read: Cheek Biting- What You Need to Know?

Disadvantages of Amalgam Fillings

  • Though the Mercury levels in amalgam are considered safe by ADA, the amalgam filling requires more of the tooth structure to be removed.
  • Patients with metal allergies may have a bad reaction to amalgam, though it’s rare.
  • Amalgam fillings can be visible, even on the back teeth, when you open your mouth wide.
  • Fractures can be caused in Amalgam fillings as they may expand and contract with temperature exposure.

What is Bioaccumulation?

The build-up or gradually increasing concentration of a chemical in organs or tissues in the body is called bioaccumulation.

Mercury from dental amalgam and other sources like fish is known to be bioaccumulative. Most of the mercury from these sources is however eradicated.

But a part of it can amass in the fluids and tissues of the body including the kidneys and brain.

It is imperative to mention here that the detailed studies have proved that enhanced mercury levels and bioaccumulation due to dental amalgam do not result in detectable damage to the target organs. 

Potential Risks of Dental Amalgam

There is no available evidence to date to indicate that exposure to mercury from dental amalgam can lead to negative health effects in the general population.

However, mercury exposure may pose a health risk in the groups of people listed below, as they may be more susceptible to potential negative effects commonly associated with mercury.

  1. Pregnant women and their developing foetuses
  1. Women planning pregnancy.
  1. Women who are nursing their newborns and infants.
  1. Children younger than six years of age.
  1. People with pre-existing neurological disorders.
  1. People with impaired kidney function.
  1. People have heightened sensitivity to mercury or other components used in dental amalgam fillings like silver, copper and tin.

If you’re someone who is in one of the high-risk categories, you can talk to Dr Sheena Gaur at Kirkland Premier Dentistry to discuss your health history, know about the potential effects of amalgam and know about the other available treatments options for fillings.

Should Dental Amalgam Fillings Be Removed?

The removal of a filing that is in good condition and without any decay beneath it is not recommended.

Removing intact amalgam fillings can only lead to unnecessary loss of healthy tooth structure and expose the patient to a temporary increase in mercury vapour released during the removal process.

Dr Sheena Gaur explains that amalgam fillings in anyone, including those considered to be at greater risk like pregnant or nursing mothers and children, should not be removed to prevent any disease or health condition until and unless deemed absolutely necessary because of some medical condition.

If someone has a health situation, teeth sensitivity or allergy to mercury, or suffers from a neurological or kidney disease, the need for removal and replacement should be discussed with the dentist or physician.

Dr Gaur explains that the stability and durability of any tooth restoration depend on numerous factors besides dental filling material.

To ensure that teeth & fillings last as long as possible, one should maintain a healthy diet, proper oral hygiene, and regular dental checkups.

If you think you have encountered negative reactions from treatment with dental amalgam, please book an appointment at Kirkland Premier Dentistry to discuss the issue with Dr Sheena Gaur who has a substantial experience in all kinds of fillings and has been restoring healthy smiles without any adverse health effects in people for many years now!

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