One of the most common materials used for dental fillings is amalgam. These fillings are often simply referred to as silver fillings and you can easily identify them by their silver appearance. Throughout the years, many concerns have been brought to light over amalgam fillings. The reason behind the concern is due to mercury that may be in the fillings. Below, Dr. Cho will address some of the most commonly asked questions about these types of fillings.
What is amalgam?
When you hear the word amalgam, you may not know what it means or you may just think silver because of the color of the filling itself. Amalgam is a combination of different metals and has been used in the dental world for over 100 years. Amalgam is not made up of just silver and it is a combination of copper, silver, tin, and mercury. It is almost like a mish-mosh of metal. Small trace amounts of palladium and zinc are often found in the filling as well.
Nowadays, tooth-colored materials are relied on because they are more aesthetically pleasing. Amalgam is not as popular as it once was, but it is still used. Newer materials cannot always be used and in these situations, amalgam must be used.
Is amalgam safe?
Millions of patients have amalgam fillings in their mouths. Concerns about mercury have been brought up and some patients think they may die from mercury poisoning, but this is not likely at all. There have been many reputable studies performed that have shown there is no reason to limit the use of amalgam. In fact, the FDA backed this decision and concluded that amalgam fillings are safe for children age 6 and older and adults of any age.
There are some dental groups that do not agree with the decision founded by the FDA in 2009 and they have been asked to reconsider it, however, no changes have been made.
Is mercury in amalgam?
Yes. Mercury is used in the metal fillings because it allows the filling to be molded and shaped the way is needs to be. When mercury is mixed with an alloy powder, it becomes soft and the filling can be pushed into the tooth without a struggle. It does harden quickly, so Dr. Cho must work quickly. Mercury allows your filling to withstand chewing and biting.
Have there been reported reactions to amalgam?
There are rare cases where someone may have an allergic reaction to the mercury present in the amalgam. The ADA states that there are less than 100 of these cases ever reported. People who are allergic to amalgam can receive other filling materials to facilitate their needs. Dr. Cho will work closely with you to determine if it is safe for you to receive an amalgam filling or if you need to receive another type of filling.
Should amalgam fillings be removed from my mouth?
No. You do not need to make any special trips to the dentist to have amalgam fillings removed from your mouth. In fact, the only time that these fillings need to be removed are when they break, wear down, or there is a problem with the tooth underneath the filling itself. There is not sufficient evidence to show that amalgam fillings will prove to be a problem within your mouth.
Removing an amalgam filling that is in good condition is unnecessary and may cause complications that did not need to be created. In fact, if a good amalgam filling is removed, it may actually release more mercury during the removal process.
Is your La Habra office amalgam free?
No. At Dr. Kenneth Cho Dentistry, we offer amalgam fillings as an option here in our office. Since there is not sufficient evidence to show that the mercury is a problem, Dr. Cho relies on amalgam for those patients who need them. If you are concerned about the amalgam, you can speak with Dr. Cho about alternative treatments that will allow you to avoid the material altogether.
Are there safe alternatives to amalgam?
Yes. In fact, there are new amalgam fillings that utilize a substance called indium, which helps to hold the mercury in place and prevents the mercury from releasing. This means that you do not have to worry much about the mercury at all with this option.
There are also high copper amalgams that contain more copper within them and less mercury. Not all dental offices carry these fillings on hand, so do be sure to let Dr. Cho know if you would like to explore this option.
In addition, it is not uncommon to see other materials used such as porcelain, gold, and a resin material. These are all safe alternatives and do not have any mercury in them at all. The composite resin filling is popular among patients because they are tooth colored, which allows them to look natural within the mouth.
Of course, if you ever want to explore other options such as extraction or a crown, it is recommended that you talk to Dr. Cho FIRST, so that you and he can determine the best treatment option for your needs.
If amalgam is considered to be a safe substance, why do you need to take precaution when handling it?
Dentists and Dr. Cho work with mercury on a daily basis, which means they are exposed to much more of it than you are. It is important for Dr. Cho to protect himself from it because of the vapors that may be released in the air. Mercury toxicity does exist, but it takes a lot of exposure, that which can be obtained by working around amalgam fillings and other mercury products day in and out.
Come in for a Dental Consultation Today
If you are in need of a dental consultation or you would like to discuss your options when it comes to amalgam fillings, contact our La Habra office today. Dr. Cho is available to provide you with the treatment you need.
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