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Are Silver Fillings Safe?

Posted on: November 25th, 2013

If you have a few amalgam fillings, also known as silver fillings, in your mouth and have ever wondered about their safety regarding your overall health, then I hope the following information will put those worries to rest.  Amalgam fillings have been used in dentistry for many years.  They contain a mixture of metals including mercury.  These metals bond together to form a very durable and lasting restoration.  Some have questioned the safety of using a product with mercury in it, especially since mercury in certain amounts can be hazardous to your health.  Most of the mercury in your amalgam fillings is bound to the other metals that form your restoration; however, a very small amount of it does escape in the form of mercury vapor.

In a study done by Berglund it was calculated that if you had 12 amalgam fillings then 1.7μg (micro grams) of mercury vapor would be released each day.  While this might sound significant, a normal person takes in 10-20 μg of mercury per day from air, water and food.  People with a diet high in fish would have an even higher intake.

The World Health Organization sets an upper limit of 30μg/g creatinine urine mercury level to cause the most subtle preclinical effects in the most sensitive individuals.  It would take 450-530 amalgam fillings in a patient to produce this level of mercury.

Similarly, studies done by Osborne and Albino demonstrated that “the level of mercury intake from dental amalgam has been demonstrated to be far too small to result in any toxic reactions.”    In a different randomized 5 year clinical trial on children, performed by David C. Bellinger, it was concluded that there were no clinical or statistical neuropsychological or renal effects and that “the health effects of amalgam fillings in children need not be the basis of treatment decisions when choosing restorative dental materials.”

If these types of fillings do not increase risk in patients, then one might wonder if the dentists exposed to this material on a continued basis might have an increased risk for negative health effects.  One study concluded that while “dentists have more mercury exposure than the general population, yet health and morbidity studies indicate that they have no unusual diseases and, in fact, live longer than their physician colleagues who generally are not exposed to mercury in the work place.”  A second study demonstrated that urine mercury levels of dentists were at or below those of the general population, <4ug/mL.

The above studies are just a few of many studies that have been performed world wide to determine the safety of amalgam fillings.  Organizations that have reviewed dental amalgams and have deemed them safe for society include the world Health Organization, the FDA, the ADA and the US Public Health Service. Additionally, the National Council Against Health Fraud states, “[It] believes that amalgam fillings are safe”.

That being said, today many dentists, including myself, place very few amalgam fillings.  With the development of bonded fillings that are tooth colored, amalgam fillings have waned in popularity.  Simply put, most people prefer the more esthetic tooth-colored fillings.  Additionally, exciting new developments with bonded fillings have increased their strength and can even help reduce the risk of recurrent decay. In conclusion, despite fewer amalgam fillings being placed today, current studies continue to suggest that your amalgam fillings are safe and pose no health risk.

A Message from Dr. Joseph Laudie