Amalgam fillings have been the gold standard for over 160 years. Each year, millions of teeth across Australia are successfully treated with amalgam fillings. It’s a strong, long-lasting material that is very cost effective. It still has a very important role in modern dentistry.
Increasingly over the last few years, amalgam fillings have come under attack. It is claimed that the mercury in the amalgam flakes off and is absorbed into the blood stream, causing a variety of health concerns.
It is true that amalgam from fillings can get into the bloodstream. However, this mercury is poorly absorbed by the body. Mercury from amalgam is instead filtered by the kidneys and expelled in urine. Mercury from other sources (such as certain seafoods) that the body does absorb are tolerable so long as they’re only ingested in minuscule amounts.
Removing Amalgam Fillings
Mercury Poisoning Claims
Many dentists and health practitioners have begun claiming that removing and replacing amalgam fillings may cure certain illnesses. To date, there is no reputable evidence suggesting that amalgam fillings even cause these illnesses, let alone that removing them will do anything.
Despite these claims remaining unproven, they are widely reported on TV, in print, and online. Many people with amalgam fillings are now unnecessarily worried about them and their supposed possible side effects. This in turn leads them to ask dentists to replace their fillings with another filling material.
The use of dental amalgam is strongly supported by various organisations around the world. The Australian Dental Association (ADA), National Health and Medical Research Council, and World Health Organization (WHO) do not support the views that:
- Amalgam causes illnesses or health problems.
- Amalgam fillings need to be removed and replaced as a matter of course.
- Teeth with amalgam or root fillings should be extracted.
Reasons to Remove Amalgam Fillings
While there is no strong evidence to support claims that mercury from fillings cause problems, no filling material is without risk.
Amalgam can cause an allergic reaction in some patients. This can include soreness, redness, and itching around the filling site.
Small sores can be caused by the amalgam on the cheek and gum, known as “lichen planus”.
Cavities can become reinfected and start to decay again after a filling is placed. In these instances, the filling might become loose in the cavity. A loose filling can lead to a variety of problems, such as chipping or cracking the tooth, which can even lead to breakages. Amalgam is actually more susceptible to this than some other materials, as it doesn’t readily bond to the tooth structure around it.
These are known, proven complications and risks of amalgam fillings. In these instances, your dentist may suggest removing and replacing the filling themselves.
Concerns About Removing Fillings
Most dentists do not believe that amalgam is a health risk. In fact, needlessly removing a filling can be worse for a patient than leaving it in.
Removing a filling may needlessly damage or weaken the tooth. It can be painful, and actually harm the patient’s dental health.
And not least of all, it’s a waste of money for the patient.
If a patient is insistent to get their fillings removed when their dentist is reluctant, the dentist may:
- Refer the patient to another dentist
- Remove the filling after ensuring the patient is fully informed about the costs and risks of removing the filling.
At the end of the day, it is your decision, and yours alone, as to whether to remove and replace your fillings.
Alternatives to Amalgam Fillings
White tooth-coloured fittings are a popular alternative to amalgam these days. these are typically made out of dental composite, a special mixture of glass and resin. They can be matched to the colour of a patient’s teeth and are incredibly discrete.
While aesthetically superior, these white fillings simply aren’t as durable as amalgam. This is especially important for the back teeth, where there is more bite pressure and the risk of damaging the restoration is greater. Many dentists will opt for white fillings where possible, but still use amalgam for molars.
- Dental amalgam is safe, cost-effective, and strong.
- Proven side effects include sores on the inside of the mouth and allergic reactions. There is no proof linking amalgam fillings to other illnesses.
- There are various sources of mercury in our environment and diet. These are easily tolerated by the human body so long as they remain within certain limits.
- Studies conducted show people who have had amalgam fillings removed and replaced have shown no measurable improvement on to their health.
- Needless removal of amalgam fillings can be harmful to your oral health.
- Alternative filling materials provide superior aesthetics, but without the strength and durability of amalgam.