The American Dental Association has announced that in Sweden and Norway, the use of silver-mercury (amalgam) dental fillings has been banned. There has been much discussion as to the health and environmental risks of these fillings for some time. In the USA, the use of silver-mercury is still permitted by the government and the FDA. However, many states now require elaborate filtration systems in dental offices to ensure that when removed from teeth, silver-mercury filling waste does not get into the sewage system, as it is considered hazardous. New York has such a requirement, and New Jersey will begin enforcement in the coming months. In 2008, there are seemingly better materials than silver amalgam with which to restore teeth. Not only does amalgam contain mercury, which is a toxic substance and is downright ugly, but studies have shown that it is not beneficial to teeth. Imagine the activity of mercury in a thermometer- it expands and contracts as the temperature changes and does the same thing in your mouth. It contracts, leaving minute crevices that bacteria-laden saliva seeps into, causing decay under the filling. When the filling later expands, it pushes on weakened tooth structure, often causing the cusp of a tooth to fracture off.
Alternatives to mercury-silver fillings are resin/composite restorations or porcelain onlays. Composite is a white material that is bonded to the tooth. Since composite restorations are tooth colored and natural looking, until recently, dental insurance companies deemed that they were only cosmetic and therefore they were not covered under the terms of some policies. However, now the better policies recognize the benefits of composite restorations and do reimburse for them, or at the very least, reimburse at the level of an amalgam filling. Porcelain onlays are harder than filling material and usually last longer. The porcelain is also bonded into place and helps to strengthen the tooth. If you have silver-mercury amalgam fillings in your mouth, chances are you’ll be OK. It is considered unethical for a dentist to advise a patient to have them removed purely for health reasons. However, many patients opt to do so.
If you have questions concerning mercury fillings, you should ask your dentist. If you do not have a dental home, you are welcome to contact us Aesthetic Dental Care of New Jersey (where we haven’t used mercury filling material for over fifteen years) and schedule an appointment so that we can discuss your unique situation. We’re located at 389 Passaic Avenue in Fairfield.
P.S. If silver-mercury amalgams considered so toxic that soon it won’t be allowed to be removed from teeth by regular means, is it really something you want in your mouth?