September 14, 2011
Today, I would like to begin a discussion on the two major types of filling materials most commonly used in dentistry today. This topic is surrounded with controversy but my discussion will focus on facts that everyone will verify. As a disclaimer, I have not used metal fillings for the last fifteen years. Here we go.
Silver fillings are sometimes referred to as mercury fillings. This is partially true. These fillings are also known as amalgam fillings because they are actually an amalgamation of several metals such as silver , copper, zinc and yes, mercury. This material has been used for dental fillings for many, many years. The mercury in them is thought to stable when the material is set and is thought to remain that way in the mouth. This is one of the major controversies, whether the mercury remains stable. Much research has been done and the material is still deemed safe by the American Dental Association and the Food and Drug Agency. It is banned, however, in several countries in Europe.
One thing is certain. These are heavy metals that would be toxic in the tissues of the body. Dentists are required to have sophisticated filtration systems in their offices to prevent the contamination of waste treatment facilities when they are removed from the mouth. Further, the disposal of amalgam that has been removed from teeth is strictly regulated and very costly.
Another negative aspect of silver amalgam is with the techniques required to place them. These fillings are held in place by the shape of the cavity. The dentist must create undercuts in the tooth which creates a mechanical retention of the material when it sets. These undercuts can weaken teeth as most anyone who has broken a tooth while eating can attest.
In the interest of not being overwhelming, I will end the discussion today and pick it up in the next blog. Stay tuned.
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