Here’s a blog from a progressive office I really like with some annotations of my thoughts.
Despite our best efforts, most patients in our practice have had at least one cavity and filling in their lives, and if you are in your thirties or older, there is a good chance that at least some of your fillings were made of metal. Recently these fillings have become a controversial topic in the health press.
Recently is a pretty relative term. These fillings have been under the gun and actually banned in several countries for decades.
This material, known as “amalgam,” is actually a combination of silver, tin, copper, zinc, and – at the top of all the controversy – mercury.
Many of us remember being introduced to mercury in an elementary school science class. As the only metal that is liquid at room temperature, it was always fun when the teacher showed us how an actual metal can flow inside a tube. But drop the tube or break a mercury filled thermometer and look out! As a toxic poison it had to be cleaned up with extreme caution.
So if mercury is so dangerous, what the heck is it doing in your mouth? While metal amalgam fillings do give off small amounts of mercury vapor, most researchers, including The American Dental Association Council On Scientific Affairs, have concluded that unless there is a specific allergy these types of fillings pose no personal health risk.
I have yet to read an article from a credible scientific source that can show that having these mercury fillings in your mouth poses any health risk, however the whole process of placing and removing can pose low level exposure to the hazardous free mercury radical from the vapor.
But visit our dental office today and you will find that we recommend doing “fillings” (also known as “dental restorations”) with other materials. Why? There are many reasons. Here are just a few.
1) Beauty. There is no doubt about it – silver fillings are not very attractive. The modern materials we use these days are tooth colored ones, so only your dental team needs to know that your beautiful smile once contained a few cavities.
2) Bonding. While a traditional filling is simply wedged into your tooth, making it more prone to breakage, most of the more modern materials actually adhere to the tooth itself. In many cases this means that less healthy tooth needs to be removed in order to perform a proper restoration, and these materials are less prone to “leaks” where decay and bacteria can easily form at the junction of the tooth and restoration. The cosmetic bonding material actually supports the remaining tooth structure.
3) Expansion and contraction. Ever have trouble removing the lid on a jar? Run the lid under some hot water and it pops right off. Why? The heat causes the metal lid to expand slightly. Well, the same thing happens with an amalgam (metal) filling. And years of expansion and contraction from eating hot and cold foods can damage the tooth and the restoration. Choose a more modern material and go have that ice cream and coffee. Yum!!
So, this last one was definitely the kicker for me over 20 years ago and one of the top reasons why I stopped placing them. No doubt, we’re ALL better off using a filling material that doesn’t have any toxic materials in it, but the structural damage I was repeatedly seeing from the expanding mercury fillings was doing tangible, obvious damage to my patient’s teeth.
I still have several small mercury fillings in my mouth that my father did for me over 40 years ago and I’ll have them my whole life. They pose no health or structural risk.
We’ve also moved away from metal in most of Dental Crowns and Bridges for health and cosmetic reasons.
I’m happy to report that we have been and will continue to be ahead of the curve in watching out for our patient’s best interest, above and beyond what the ADA and other organization’s standards might be.
If you, or someone you love, would like a complimentary evaluation of what risk they might be running from their fillings, or if their dentist is still placing these fillings or they’d just like to switch to a more progressive Bryn Mawr Dentist that looks out for their best interest have them give us a call at 610-525-5497.