You may have had a silver filling a long time ago and wondered what it is made of. For years, traditional dental fillings were made of dental amalgam. Other names include silver dental fillings or aluminium fillings causing mercury poisoning.
At Luminous Dentistry, we are a mercury-free dentistry on the Central Coast of NSW, with a full range of fillings that don’t contain dental amalgam.
If you have silver fillings, let’s cover some factors to consider.
WHAT ARE DENTAL AMALGAM AND SILVER FILLINGS?
Dental amalgam is a type of filling made of an alloy (blend) of various metals including silver, tin, mercury and copper.
They were used for decades as the primary way to fill teeth. They look silver or black in the mouth and are one of the most durable types of dental fillings.
One of the major controversies and concerns with amalgam dental fillings is that they also contain mercury. While mercury fillings may be safe in certain situations, it’s important to take the whole picture into account. As such, some people can experience problems with their mercury fillings due to the potential risk of exposure and mercury allergy or mercury toxicity.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHITE AND SILVER FILLINGS?
When it comes to composite vs. amalgam dental fillings, only one of them is free of toxic materials: white, composite restorations. Even though the mercury levels in silver fillings are relatively low, there is always a risk of mercury exposure and subsequent health changes due to the toxin entering your body.
White fillings are also less invasive to teeth. The composite dental filling is capable of bonding directly to your tooth surface, so that it can be placed just about anywhere throughout your mouth. Consequently, this requires less “preparation” (removal of tooth surface) for the filling to be placed.
On the other hand, silver fillings cannot bond with teeth. As a result, a significant amount of healthy tooth structure must be cut away so the metal can be shaped in a way that prevents it from moving. This makes mercury or silver fillings more invasive to teeth compared to white restorations.
Aesthetically speaking, white fillings are more cosmetically pleasing than a metal restoration. Composite comes in a number of different shades, allowing our dentists to individually match the colour of your restoration to the tooth around it. No one will need to know that you’ve had a filling unless you tell them.
DO METAL FILLINGS OUTLAST WHITE ONES?
Although amalgam fillings have traditionally been known to outlast the materials used in white restorations, newer materials are showing that it’s possible to repair teeth with safer treatments without reducing the strength or longevity of the filling.
SYMPTOMS OF LEAKING MERCURY IN FILLINGS
What are some of the symptoms or problems caused by mercury leaking from amalgam fillings? Although they vary from person to person, let us know immediately if you are experiencing any of the following signs of mercury toxicity:
Toothache, tooth pain on biting or sensitivity to hot and cold drinks
Gums that bleed for no explainable reason
Localised periodontal disease around the affected tooth
Frequent mouth ulcers
A metallic taste
Increased saliva flow
Burning mouth syndrome
Red or inflamed soft oral tissues
Loss of the sense of taste
“Geographic tongue” (bald or raw patches on the teeth)
Because we’re committed to a whole-body approach to caring for our patients, we stand behind the concept of how oral and systemic wellness go hand in hand with one another. If mercury toxicity can affect tissues within your mouth, we believe the safest thing to do is to remove the metal fillings and replace them with a more holistic material.
Having your mercury fillings removed is an extremely personal decision, and we’re committed to discussing your options with you so that you can make an informed choice about the future of your overall health. Always consult your GP and before making such decisions.
SYMPTOMS OF MERCURY TOXICITY WITH SILVER DENTAL FILLINGS
Most mercury exposure comes from environmental factors and the food that we eat, such as fish. It can take up to three days for the body to filter and expel mercury. But when not filtered out adequately, it can accumulate within the body and lead to internal tissue damage.
As metal amalgam fillings become, the more likely they are to start to leak. This allows new bacteria to seep underneath the edges, that may cause dental decay under the filling. While it’s not well understood, amalgam restorations may gradually seep mercury into the body.
Mercury is typically filtered and removed by your liver, some people experience significant health problems that are believed to be the result of inadequate mercury removal by the body. As such, it can start to contribute to cumulative health complications that may otherwise have no obvious cause.
Possible symptoms and signs of mercury toxicity or overload include:
Emotional changes (including mood swings, irritability, and nervousness)
Muscle fatigue, twitching, tremors, atrophy, weakness, and loss of coordination
Pin-prick like stinging sensations
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY METAL FILLING IS LEAKING?
It’s normal for silver fillings to wear out over time. You may begin to notice a dark line or shadow around the edges of your filling, where the area has opened up and created a gap between your restoration and the tooth. Choosing to replace it with a white filling is a safe and conservative alternative to having a new metal filling put in its place.
If the filling is large, a porcelain crown may be more appropriate. Crowns cover teeth that have been strained due to large fillings or decay, protecting them for everyday wear.
REMOVING AND REPLACING AMALGAM OR SILVER FILLINGS
Mercury-free dentistry includes a full range of dental fillings that don’t have mercury. It may also include amalgam filling removals. This type of practice incorporates special filtration, suction, and barriers to prevent mercury vapours and particles from being inhaled by the patient during removal, or entering into the water supply after it’s broken away from the tooth.
Mercury is most potent in its vapour form. In dentistry, this means when your amalgam filling is being placed and when it is being removed. If you are prone to bruxism (chronic clenching and grinding of the teeth,) it may put you at an increased risk of mercury being released from your restorations on a day-to-day basis. As such, mercury safe practices are extremely important for patients to consider when requesting to have their silver fillings replaced.