There’s a lot of debate in the world of dentistry over using silver amalgam for filling dental caries. Although it was the preferred – and sometimes only – choice for dental patients for decades, new findings are questioning whether they are safe for the patient, especially as they begin to age and degrade.
If you have a mouth full of silver amalgam fillings and they are aging, you might want to consider dealing with the cost of having them replaced. In the end, what you spend on replacements might end up saving you money in health costs.
Many patients wonder if they have to remove the mercury-laden silver amalgam filling to protect their health. With so many restorative options available, patients need to know if they pose a risk and if it is worthwhile to bite the bullet – no pun intended – to remove the fillings and upgrade to more aesthetically pleasing and safer filling material.
Most People are Unaware of the Health Hazards Lurking
When surveyed, up to 72% Americans had absolutely no idea that their silver leaking amalgam fillings contained metals like mercury, which can pose a health hazard. 92% of those asked said they would have preferred being made aware that silver amalgam fillings contain harmful substances before making the choice to have them placed.
Mercury is a metal that is a neurotoxin, and one that in higher levels of exposure can cause autoimmune disease, mental disorders, neurological illnesses and other chronic issues. A debate exists in the dental world about whether the filling material possesses a risk to dental patients once they are placed. Many also question whether the small amount of mercury vapor that is released can pose a health risk to patients.
Studies Show That Mercury Vapor is Dangerous
Amalgam fillings are comprised of as much as 50% mercury mixed with tin, copper, and silver. Studies (1) indicate that mercury vapor in silver amalgam fillings can be as much as 1-3 ug/day and be as high as 27 ug/month. Those numbers translate from anywhere from 3% to as much as 68% of air quality standards that are set for workplace environments by OSHA. With that type of exposure, the evidence would indicate that they are hazardous to someone’s health.
Things that can enhance the ingestion of mercury are chewing gum, drinking carbonated drinks, and grinding teeth. Any excessive wear and tear to the fillings can increase the amount of mercury that is released and cause a person with silver amalgam fillings to be exposed to much higher levels. Also in question is the contamination that removing silver amalgam has on the impact of the environment overall. When they are removed and replaced, the mercury eventually will find its way into the water supply.
The World Health Organization estimates that as much as 53% of all the mercury emissions in the environment are related to silver amalgam fillings. They have made recommendations that when the fillings are removed, they are disposed of in specific ways to limit the potential exposure to the environment.
It is Already Banned in Other Countries
Scandinavian countries banned the use of amalgam fillings nearly a decade ago, and many health advocates are insisting that the US should follow suit and discontinue using silver amalgam fillings.
With so many new materials to use for dental caries, it makes sense that going forward patients should choose other options. To use a material that is potentially harmful just to save money is not only not smart, but is unfair to people who can’t afford the more expensive alternatives. That leaves those in lower socioeconomic conditions with no other options, which is tantamount to discrimination.
There is clear evidence (2) that silver amalgam contains highly toxic metal. If it is something that people shouldn’t be exposed to, it makes no sense to be using it in someone’s mouth – especially when it comes to children. If you have a mouth full of silver amalgams that were placed decades ago, it can be wreaking havoc on your health and leading to several potential conditions in the future. Although it’s not an inexpensive proposition, it is a good idea to have them replaced when possible.