What is amalgam?
The amalgam is a combination of metals forming material filling most popular and effective used in dentistry over the past 150 years. Although sometimes referred to as “silver amalgam,” amalgam is a combination of metals. These include silver, mercury, tin, and copper. Small amounts of zinc, indium or palladium can also be used.
Tooth-colored materials can now be used to restore teeth. Therefore, amalgam is used less than before. However, new materials cannot be used in all situations. Amalgam is less expensive than other materials. It also holds up better over time, especially on teeth that experience a lot of pressure and wear when chewing.
How safe is amalgam?
Millions of people have amalgam fillings. The concern arose about the mercury contained in the amalgam.
Many studies have been done on amalgam fillings. In 2009, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated this research. He found no reason to limit the use of amalgam. The FDA concluded that amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children 6 years of age and older.
However, some groups asked the FDA to reconsider. And that review is ongoing.
Check the FDA amalgam information page to know more.
Why is mercury used in amalgam?
Mercury is used in amalgam because it helps the filling material be moldable. According to Aidite technology co ltd when mixed with an alloying powder, it creates a compound that is smooth enough to blend and press into the tooth. But at the same time, it hardens quickly and can withstand the forces exerted by biting and chewing.
What is the concern about mercury in amalgam?
Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in the environment. Mercury comes in liquid form, like in thermometers. When heated, it turns into gas. It can also be combined with many other materials.
We are all exposed to mercury through the air, drinking water, land, and food. Concerns have been raised, for example, about the amount of mercury that accumulates in fish due to contamination. Factories and fuels that contain mercury release it into the air. Mercury from all kinds of sources can build up in body organs.
And as with most substances, the degree of damage mercury causes in the body is related to the amount. At very low levels, it does not cause harmful effects. At higher levels, as in the case of workers exposed to mercury in their work environments, mercury can cause a variety of symptoms. Among them, anxiety, irritability, memory loss, headaches and fatigue.
The amalgam controversy centers on how much mercury is released from amalgam and how much the body absorbs. In the past, amalgam fillings were believed to be inert. This means that no mercury was released once the filling was placed in the mouth. In recent years, sophisticated tests have been carried out that changed this idea. Tiny amounts of mercury vapor can be released as the amalgam filling wears down.
Research on this topic is complex and has come up with various estimates of the actual amount of mercury released. However, many of these reviews have concluded that any amount released by the amalgam in the mouth is minimal.
Studies show that the amount of mercury we are exposed to from our fillings is less than the amount most people are exposed to in their everyday environment and in the food they eat.
Do some people have reactions to amalgam?
In some cases, there are people with allergic reactions to the mercury in amalgam. The American Dental Association states that fewer than 100 cases of this type of allergy have been reported. People allergic to amalgam may have another type of filling material placed.
Should Pregnant Women Be Concerned About Amalgam Fillings?
Research has found no health effects of amalgam fillings in pregnant women. However, mercury can permeate the placenta. In general, dentists advise pregnant women to avoid any unnecessary dental care. Women should avoid amalgam fillings during pregnancy. Dentists suggest other supplies for pregnant women who need cavities filled.
Should anyone else consider alternatives to amalgam fillings?
Mercury concerns relate to the total amount of mercury that is absorbed from all sources. Therefore, it would be advisable for those who have high exposure to mercury to avoid amalgams. Examples include people exposed to mercury in their work environments, or those who eat large amounts of shellfish and fish.
If amalgam is safe, why is my dentist taking precautions when handling it?
Since dentists work with mercury almost daily, they must take safety measures. Without protection, dentists could inhale mercury fumes. Over time, this exposure can lead to symptoms of mercury poisoning.
To make dental amalgam, dentists mix a liquid of mercury with a powder that contains silver, tin, and other metals. Dentists buy special capsules that contain the mercury powder and liquid, separated by a membrane. They use special machinery to pierce the membrane and mix the amalgam that remains in the capsule. When mixing is complete, the capsule is opened. By the time the amalgam is placed in the mouth, the mercury will have formed a compound with the other metals, and it will no longer be toxic.
If you are having an amalgam filling in or out, your dentist will use powerful suction to remove any excess amalgam that is left in your mouth. Dental offices have special waste disposal systems for leftover amalgam. Special collectors are installed in the sink drains and in the suction tubes to prevent the amalgam from entering the drainage system.