Have you ever been to the dentist and wondered, “Should I have all my silver fillings replaced with white ones?”

Here is some information to help you make your decision.

What is dental amalgam?

Most people refer to amalgam fillings as silver fillings. This type of filling material is made up of a mixture of mercury and an alloy of silver, tin and copper. Forty to fifty percent of it is mercury. This is used to bind the metals together. These fillings are strong and durable. Mercury is the only element that when combined with these alloys, results in a material that is workable for repairing cavities.

Is the mercury in silver fillings safe?

When mercury in silver fillings combines with the other materials, the chemical nature changes. It is essentially harmless. It is not poisonous. The amount released under the pressures of chewing and grinding is very small and no cause for alarm. It is less than what patients are exposed to it in the food, water and air. Mercury can be found in food, air, fish and water. These sources expose people to more mercury than from a mouthful of amalgam fillings.

Studies have been carried out over the past 100 years proving that amalgam fillings are not harmful. Claims that boast miraculous cures achieved by removing amalgams have not been scientifically proven.

Why do dentists use silver fillings?

Dental amalgams (silver fillings) have a proven 150 year track record as one of the safest, strongest and most inexpensive materials of choice for filling a cavity.

Why do dentists use alternatives to amalgam?

Cast gold fillings, porcelain and composite resins are some of the options. Gold and porcelain restorations take longer to make, are more costly and require 2 appointments. Composite resins or white fillings are esthetically pleasing, take a bit longer to place than silver filling. Although they not as durable as amalgam, they are a fairly good option for 1 and 2 surface fillings. Patients should consider inlays, onlays or crowns for larger restorations.

Is there such a thing a mercury allergy?

Mercury allergy is rare. If you suspect an allergy to mercury, you should be tested by a qualified physician, and when necessary, seek appropriate alternatives. Do we recommend patients have their amalgam fillings removed? No! Unless the filling is defective in some way, removing the amalgam without need would result in unnecessary expense and potential harm to the teeth.

Feel free to discuss the options for fillings with your dental team at your next dental visit.