Dentists remove the decayed portion of the tooth where the cavity has formed and fill in the resulting crater with silver amalgam or dental filling. Even for the treatment of cracked and worn out a tooth, dentists use dental filling.  All had been good so far, but concerns have started growing about using dental amalgam that contains mercury.  Mercury is highly toxic and unsafe for human health which is why people are scared to use it in dental filling. Then why are dentists using it?  Silver amalgam that contains mercury was a compulsive choice because there were no better alternatives available earlier.

However, things are now set to change. With ongoing efforts in medical research, it has now been possible to make available more human-friendly materials for use in dental filling. The concern for human health is also the result of a change in approach to dental treatment that now takes a more holistic approach. Dentists no longer restrict their vision of oral health only but consider how the treatment and choice of treatment materials can affect the overall health of people. The dentists at PSL Smiles are concerned about the well-being of patients and are embracing safe dental practices by using non-toxic materials for a dental filling. They advise people who have already received silver amalgam filling to replace it with safer filling materials free from mercury.  As people are also keen to avail healthier options in the dental treatment, they are more and more choosing the mercury-free dental filling.

Before you decide to abandon dental amalgam that contains mercury, it will be good to know what harm it can cause, and what other safe alternatives of dental amalgam are now available.

The growing concern

Silver amalgam has been in use for dental treatment for almost 150 years during which dentists have used the filling on millions of people across the world. Silver is the main metal in the composition of dental filling which is why people call it silver amalgam, and it contains other metals like copper, tin, and mercury. Sometimes, very minute quantities of palladium, zinc, and indium are also used. Over the years, the concern for mercury contamination from dental filling has been growing because dentists preferred to consider it as a lesser evil because it takes a long time for the signs of danger to show up. Although the US Food and Drug Administration does not agree that mercury filled dental amalgam is dangerous for human health, it has embarked on a mission to review its 2009 findings, and the results are still awaited.

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Why is mercury harmful?

In the absence of clear scientific evidence that mercury in the dental filling is bad for human health, the groups that advocate abolishing the use of silver filling are trying to convince people about the harms that can happen from long exposure to mercury. Since the dental filling remains in the body for many years, even if mercury acts very slowly on the body, it can damage health in the long run. We receive some amount of mercury exposure from the environment as its traces are found in drinking water, air, soil, and food because mercury freely occurs in nature.

Mercury is a liquid metal that emits gases when heated. Fishes and other aquatic animals receive a fair amount of mercury exposure, and thus the metal enters the food chain for humans that consume fish. Industries that use mercury release mercury vapors that contaminate the environment and poses a danger for those inhaling the polluted air.

Mercury in a very small amount in the body does not pose any health risk which increases as the content of mercury rises. Signs of sickness from mercury contamination manifest in the form of fatigue and headaches and can even result in loss of memory. Irritability and anxiety can also be signs of mercury causing harm to the body. As the dental filling goes through wear and tear, it releases a very small amount of mercury that mixes with the bloodstream. As scientists are yet to determine the acceptable levels of mercury in humans, the concern for its presence in the body regardless of the amount seems quite understandable.

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Why use mercury?

Was there not any other metal that could have made good dental amalgam by discarding mercury? Well, mercury is the choicest metal for dental filling due to its excellent pliable property. Mercury possesses a fair degree of softness that makes it convenient to form the compound that remains firmly pressed into the tooth.  Moreover, it hardens quickly and can withstand the pressure during biting and chewing besides lasting for many years. The long life is what people want, and the firm placement in the tooth cavity makes dentists happy.

The substitutes

A number of biocompatible materials safe for human consumption have now come up that offer better alternatives to the traditional silver amalgam filling. Dentists are now advocating the use of cast gold filling and tooth colored composites that can work well in patients who want to stay away from silver amalgam filling.

Cast gold fillings – Gold is the most tolerable metal for humans and safe too, which is why it is not at all surprising that dentists can use it as filler material. The gold filling is expensive and can cost 10 times that of a silver amalgam filling, but it is strong enough to match the long life that people expect from dental filling as it does not wear out in 10 to 15 years.

Tooth-colored composites – This filling material of tooth color is made from resin, and the filler material adheres to the tooth structure with good bonding that provides complete support. This type of filling is suitable for treating chipped, broken, cracked and worn out a tooth.

Porcelain based ceramic fillings – This can cost as much as gold filling, lasts as much longer and are completely non-staining. A special type of glass mixed with acrylic forms a filling material used for treating children and filling gum lines.

Leave it to the dentist to choose the safest dental filler that fits into your budget.