Why I Replaced All of My Amalgam Fillings
“Over the last few years, many patients have asked me about removal of mercury fillings in Lincoln, NE due to aesthetic and health concerns. With so much conflicting information present on the internet, many patients are confused and want answers from their dentist. I would like to share some information that influenced me to replace my amalgam fillings with metal-free dental materials.”-Kathryn Alderman, DDS
Facts About Mercury Amalgam Fillings
Amalgam Fillings Are Durable
- Historically, amalgam fillings were the most durable and dependable option for restoring teeth. Many patients today still have amalgam fillings that have lasted for over 30 years and are still sound.
- Amalgam fillings have been used in dentistry for 150 years. Some dentists still use them, even though they are no longer as popular as they used to be.
Amalgam Fillings Are Cheaper than White Fillings
- Amalgam does not require the tooth to be completely dry and can be placed in just a few steps, making the process much quicker and easier for your dentist. Because of this, they cost less.
- Alternatives to silver fillings like crowns and porcelain inlays come with lab fees. These procedures offer teeth more support than amalgam fillings but they are more expensive. Many dental insurance plans only cover a small portion of these procedures, downgrading coverage to what is called an ‘alternate benefit,’ which is at the price of the amalgam filling. This leaves the patient paying the difference. We do not really care for insurance companies telling us what restorations are better for our patients, but that is a conversation for another day. We choose alternative metal-free dental materials rather than amalgam because that is what is best for the health of our of our patients, which is our top priority.
Amalgam Fillings Weaken Teeth
- The manner in which a tooth is prepared for an amalgam filling requires that the dentist removes tooth structure beyond just the decayed part of the tooth. This is because amalgam fillings do not bond to the teeth. They are held into place by the undercut shape of the preparation. When restoring your teeth, the goal of your dentist is to preserve as much of your natural tooth structure as possible for the longevity of your teeth. Every time dental work is replaced, more and more of your tooth structure is removed in the process. White fillings allow your dentist to remove only the compromised or decayed part of the tooth. Dentists are able to place white fillings in a variety of ways on the tooth due to the chemical bond of the filling material to the tooth structure.
- Even though the amalgam fillings have been around for over a century, there are other materials that provide dentists and patients with better options for tooth fillings. Composite (white) fillings and porcelain crowns (caps) are both more aesthetically pleasing as they support the tooth. These materials require a skilled clinician and a few more steps to make them beautiful and long-lasting.
Health and Environmental Hazards of Mercury Vapor
- Amalgam fillings certainly do emit mercury vapor at times, but the most exposure to mercury happens when these fillings are removed. The dust from the filling becomes airborne when being removed. This can be ingested by the patient, the dentist, or the other staff. This is why we do not recommend removing any previously placed amalgam fillings unless a problem arises. If an amalgam filling does need to be replaced, the tooth is isolated and proper suction is used to limit exposure to the dust.
- Proper disposal and air purification during the removal of amalgam fillings in Lincoln, NE is critical to prevent introducing mercury amalgam particles into the environment.
Commonly Asked Questions About Metal Fillings:
Can mercury leak from amalgam fillings?
Silver fillings do release mercury vapor that can be inhaled and absorbed into the lungs. High levels of mercury vapor are associated with many health concerns. The level of mercury vapor that is released from dental amalgams varies based on the individual. The number of amalgam fillings present and the condition of the fillings as well as habits like grinding or clenching of the teeth can accelerate the breakdown of metal fillings and lead to the necessity of removal of mercury fillings in Lincoln, NE.
Why Do Dentists Still Use Amalgam Filling Material in the USA?
At least half of the dentists in the USA have discontinued using amalgam as a restorative material. This is simply due the the fact that there are superior dental materials available today that require less invasive treatment methods. Several European countries have recently adopted restrictions on the use and disposal of amalgam filling material due to potential health risks as well as environmental concerns. It is expected that at some point in the future, amalgam filling material will be phased out completely.
Should you replace or not to replace old amalgam fillings?
It is not recommended to replace all of your amalgam fillings if they are intact and you are a healthy individual with no metal allergies or kidney problems. Over time, all of our dental work begins to deteriorate and must be replaced throughout the course of our lifetime. If your dentist diagnoses cavities around your existing amalgam fillings or your tooth requires a new restoration due to fracture or cracks, it is ideal to make an appointment with your dentist for the removal of mercury fillings in Lincoln, NE and replace your amalgam restorations with an alternative material. At Nebraska Family Dentistry, we perform metal-free dentistry using the highest grade and most biologically compatible materials available.
Can mercury dental fillings cause health problems?
This has been a topic of debate in recent decades. The FDA and ADA recommend avoiding placing amalgam fillings on pregnant or nursing mothers as well as children under 5 years of age. The British Dental Association recommends avoiding placing amalgam fillings in children 15 years and younger as well as pregnant women, nursing mothers or patients with poor kidney function or metal allergies. At Nebraska Family Dentistry, we use only metal-free dental materials on patients of all ages to avoid introducing any elemental mercury that could contribute to existing health problems or metal sensitivities. There are vastly superior dental materials that pose no risk to the patient, and our goal is to improve the health of our patients.
Should I replace my mercury fillings?
Generally, the removal of mercury fillings in Lincoln, NE is not advised for teeth that do not exhibit any signs of recurrent decay or fracture unless the patient has metal allergies or some other health concern that is related to metal sensitivity. At your dental exam, your dentist and hygienist carefully examine all of your existing dental work as well as the gums and soft tissues to determine if any of your teeth require treatment. A conservative approach is recommended when considering replacing old metal fillings because when the metal fillings are removed, mercury vapor is released. If your dentist recommends replacing your silver fillings, it is because of recurrent decay, tooth fractures or signs of gum disease or metal sensitivity in your mouth. At your appointment, your dentist will minimize your mercury vapor exposure as much as possible by utilizing the most advanced removal techniques.
Is a white filling better than silver?
Amalgam fillings were once the most durable dental material available. Often the patients we see who still have metal fillings have had them for decades. When the time comes for the removal of mercury fillings in Lincoln, NE and replacement of old metal fillings, many patients ask which material is better for the tooth. We have found it helpful to explain the difference in the the techniques used to place fillings with either material to help patients understand the pros and cons of metal versus white fillings. In order to place a metal filling, removal of additional tooth structure beyond the part of the tooth that is decayed is required for retention purposes. When the tooth is prepared for the filling, the dentist must drill out the tooth so that the base of the filling is wider than the top, making an undercut so the filling will stay in place. White fillings only require that the decayed tooth structure is removed, because white fillings are chemically bonded to the tooth for retention. Questions about the release of elemental mercury vapor into the body as well as metal allergies and other sensitivities make white fillings a better choice for patients with autoimmune conditions or chronic inflammatory diseases.
Do Amalgam Fillings Cause Fractures?
A disadvantage of silver fillings is that when patients chew or consume hot and cold foods, the tooth and the filling expand and contract differently, creating fracture lines through the tooth structure and eventually leading to fractured tooth cusps and more extensive treatment like root canals and crowns. White fillings are more compatible with the natural tooth structure. The chemical bond of a white filling holds the tooth together, preventing fracture.
Is there any benefit to using silver filling material?
It is likely that the main reason that dentists continue to use amalgam filling material today is that the material is inexpensive and long-lasting. It also takes less time and less skill for a dentist to place an amalgam filling than a white filling. Although scientific research has concluded that there is elemental mercury vapor released through brushing, chewing, temperature changes and grinding teeth every day, the levels measured when the fillings are intact have not been found to be close to toxicity. Scientists have been unable to prove any long-term negative health effects of amalgam fillings, making the continued use of amalgam controversial. At Nebraska Family Dentistry, your overall wellness is our top priority. We carefully choose dental materials based on the individual patient, taking into account any medical conditions or sensitivities they may have. Our goal is to do no harm to our patients but to help them live healthier and happier lives.
To learn more about release of elemental mercury vapor from amalgam fillings, you can click the links below:
If you have questions or would like to request a consultation to find out if you would be a candidate to replace your fillings, contact us using online form: