Fillings restore your tooth after your dentist has removed decayed enamel in a cavity. Fillings are available in many different materials, but you might be surprised to learn that one of the most common types 一 an amalgam filling 一 contains mercury.
A surprising fact, indeed, considering mercury is on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of top 10 hazardous substances. That’s why we’re pleased to offer mercury-free dentistry at Dr. Darj Dental in El Paso, Texas. Here, Mehrnoosh Darj, DDS highlights the dangers of mercury fillings and the safer options that are available to you.
What are mercury fillings?
Dental fillings are substances that fill in holes or gaps in the enamel of your teeth, most often used when treating cavities. They restore the function of a tooth damaged by decay or injury.
Fillings can be made of many materials, including tooth-colored plastic, composite resin, gold, or dental amalgam. At first glance, mercury isn’t on that list — but mercury is part of amalgam fillings.
Amalgam fillings are often called silver fillings, but silver isn’t the only component. They earn their name because their metal composition is silver in color. Amalgam fillings are made of about 50% elemental mercury. The remaining 50% is a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper.
Why is mercury dangerous?
Mercury is a metal that exists naturally in the Earth’s crust. However, it’s dangerous to humans even with low levels of exposure, and WHO considers it a public health concern.
Mercury, regardless of how you’re exposed, can affect your nervous system, digestive system, lungs, thyroid, kidneys, and immune system. It can also cause neurological issues, including memory loss, insomnia, tremors, and neuromuscular changes.
You can be exposed to mercury through your work environment, your physical environment, or even through food. For example, eating a diet that contains high-mercury fish can slowly affect you over time.
Fillings that contain mercury can also affect you. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, elemental mercury can release low levels of mercury vapor, which you inhale. The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology also attests that amalgam fillings contain enough mercury to cause unwanted side effects of mercury exposure.
The takeaway: There’s no safe level of mercury exposure, so you can consider fillings made with mercury dangerous.
Two more issues with mercury fillings
Amalgam fillings contain other metals that can also cause problems for people with metal sensitivities. The copper, zinc, or tin in the alloy can lead to oral lichenoid contact lesions in sensitive individuals.
Although mercury exposure and metal sensitivities are the biggest concerns with silver fillings, there is another concern with amalgam fillings: They simply don’t look as nice. The metal doesn’t blend in with your teeth, so they can make you feel self-conscious about your smile.
Benefits of mercury-free fillings
At Dr. Darj Dental, we offer composite resin fillings — sometimes called white fillings — instead of amalgam fillings. Composite resin fillings are made of acrylic resin and powdered glass filler.
Mercury-free fillings restore and protect your tooth without exposing you to any harmful mercury or other metals. This option is great for people with metal sensitivity or who want to reduce their risk of heavy metal toxicity. As a bonus, mercury-free fillings are aesthetically pleasing and blend in with the rest of your teeth.
Beyond mercury-free fillings
Here at Dr. Darj Dental, we don’t stop at mercury-free fillings. We also offer porcelain crowns as well as a metal-free orthodontic treatment, ClearCorrect.
If you need a filling and want to explore the benefits of mercury-free dentistry, call Dr. Darj today at 915-213-4097. You also can book an appointment online anytime.