A Dental Amalgam is a dental filling which contains a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid mercury and powdered alloy composed of silver, tin and copper. When powdered alloy is mixed with liquid mercury they react and bind together to form an amalgam. it is used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. It has been used for more than 150 years. It is also known as “silver fillings” because of their silver-like appearance.
The dentist first cleans the decayed portion of your teeth using a dental drill or a similar device. After clearing all bacteria, he shapes your teeth for placement of the amalgam filling. Under safe conditions, the dentist then mixes powdered alloy with liquid mercury to form an amalgam putty. This amalgam putty is placed and shaped in the prepared cavity, where it rapidly hardens to form a solid filling.
Dental amalgam fillings are strong and long lasting, so they are less likely to break when compared to other types of fillings. Also dental amalgam is the least expensive type of filling material.
Millions of people have amalgam fillings. Concern has been raised over the mercury in amalgam. Many studies on the safety of amalgam fillings have been done. In 2009, US FDA evaluated this research. It found no reason to limit the use of amalgam. The FDA concluded amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children aged 6 and above. However, concerns about mercury are related to the total amount of mercury absorbed from all sources. Therefore some people who have high exposure to mercury through their jobs or who eat large amounts of sea food should avoid amalgam.
In rare cases, people have allergic reactions to mercury in amalgam. According to the American Dental Association, fewer than 100 cases of this type of allergy have ever been reported, and such patients can receive other filling materials.
Amalgam fillings should be replaced only when they are worn, broken or when there is a decay beneath the fillings. Removing good amalgam fillings results in unnecessary loss of healthy parts of the tooth and can release more mercury.
Research has not shown any ill-effects from amalgam fillings on the health of pregnant women. However, mercury can affect the placenta. In general, we advise pregnant women to avoid unnecessary dental care. Women should not get amalgam fillings during pregnancy. We usually suggest other alternative filling materials for patients who need a cavity filled.
Last updated on 30 November, 2018.