Dental fillings are very common, and fillings can be made from many different materials, including composite resin, gold, porcelain, and amalgam. Amalgam fillings — frequently called silver fillings — are made from mercury, silver, zinc, copper, and tin. Because these fillings contain mercury, some people raise questions about their safety. But should you really worry?
At Dr. Darj Dental, we prioritize sharing the most up-to-date information with you so you can make informed decisions about all of your dental care, and we offer mercury-free dentistry. In this post, Mehrnoosh Darj, DDS explains when you should (or shouldn’t) be concerned about mercury and what your mercury-free options are.
How is mercury used in dental fillings?
Amalgam is a metal alloy, and it’s used in dentistry because it’s so strong and durable. Amalgam fillings contain about 50% elemental mercury while the remaining 50% is made of other metals, such as silver, zinc, tin, and copper. Note that elemental mercury is a liquid that evaporates into a vapor.
Amalgam isn’t just used for fillings. Dental crowns are also constructed of many different materials, including amalgam.
Are amalgam fillings safe?
Amalgam is used because it’s strong — and it’s been used for decades — but is it safe? While high levels of mercury are toxic to humans, the American Dental Association reaffirmed in a September 2020 statement that amalgam fillings are safe and effective.
Likewise, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration contends that amalgam dental work is safe and that any mercury vapors levels are within the safe threshold.
Potential pitfalls of mercury-containing dental work
Despite the prevalence of mercury in dental work, it may not be right for everyone. Some individuals are more sensitive to metals in general. Mercury, copper, zinc, and tin can cause oral lesions in those individuals.
Other cons of amalgam fillings and crowns include the potential ability of metal crowns to hide damage in your teeth — the X-ray can’t penetrate through the metal. Additionally, metal crowns and fillings stand out more when you smile because they don’t match the shade of your teeth.
What are the alternatives to metal fillings and crowns?
When it comes to mercury-free dentistry, you have many options. For example, porcelain crowns can replace metal crowns. Porcelain is strong, durable, and blends in nicely with your natural teeth.
Likewise, composite resin can replace amalgam fillings. Composite resin is made of acrylic resin and powdered glass filler, and this material is popular because it is tooth-colored so it blends in nicely with your smile. Dr. Darj explores all of your options with you so you can make an informed decision.
Mercury-free dentistry is ideal for those who don’t want the tell-tale metal fillings and crowns, for those who are sensitive to metals, and for those who’d rather avoid mercury.
To learn more about mercury-free dentistry at our El Paso, Texas office, call Dr. Darj today. You can reach us at 915-213-4097 or book an appointment online.