Amalgam fillings, often referred to as silver because of their silvery appearance, are a combination of several types of metal, including silver, tin, copper, and most notable of late, mercury. This type of filling has technically been deemed safe for use by the FDA, but the material has recently come under review because of the health concerns associated with even small amounts of mercury in the body.
For many years (approximately 150), amalgam has been the filling material of choice thanks to low cost and durability. It remains popular today, although there are certainly other options, including materials like porcelain and resin that are the same color as natural teeth.
Mercury in fillings was long assumed to be inert, but improvements in testing now show that, over time, mercury from fillings can be released and absorbed into the body, potentially causing harm. In other words, it’s probably best to spend a little bit more for another type of filling, as well as remove any mercury fillings you already have.
However, you want to make sure that you remove amalgam fillings in a safe manner so as not to increase the risks of mercury release in the process. Just as you might see a specialist for veneers or dental implants, it’s best to find dentists that are sensitive to your concerns regarding amalgam fillings.
You could even seek out mercury-free dental offices. Here are just a few things you should know going into the process to ensure that your amalgam fillings are safely removed.
The first thing you need to understand is what can happen when mercury fillings are removed. In most cases the fillings are broken up with drilling, and this can present two potential problems.
You can swallow or inhale the dust and gas created when fillings are drilled, both of which could cause potential harm. In truth, the miniscule amounts of mercury that might be swallowed are likely to simply pass through your system because particulates are too large to be absorbed through the intestinal wall.
The larger concern, then, is inhaling mercury during the removal of amalgam fillings. Some dentists may not take appropriate precautions to protect patients from this threat, especially if you don’t seek out a mercury-free dental office.
Mercury poisoning can have several harmful effects if inhaled. It can bond with enzymes and proteins, spread through the body, and cause damage to cells. What does this mean?
The effects will depend on the patient and the amount of mercury inhaled, but victims could experience headaches, muscle spasms or weakness, neurological symptoms, cognitive impairment, and in extreme cases, even respiratory or organ failure. In other words, you want to avoid ingesting or inhaling mercury.
You might be understandably concerned about undergoing cosmetic dentistry procedures with a practitioner that isn’t qualified to perform them. So why would you get your amalgam fillings removed by a dentist that doesn’t understand and account for the dangers involved?
You’re going to need new fillings once you’ve had your old amalgam ones removed. If you’re at all concerned about the possibility of harm from having your amalgam fillings removed, it’s best to seek out a mercury-safe dental practice that has the knowledge, experience, and tools to safely remove mercury fillings and replace them with non-mercury filling materials.
Once you discover the perils of amalgam fillings, you’ll probably want to remove them. Just as there are root canal alternatives, there are other options to explore when it comes to safer filling materials.
First, however, you want your amalgam fillings removed in a safe manner. Seeking out dentists that offer mercury-safe removal of fillings is crucial to minimizing the risks involved.
Dentists that offer such services have the tools and practices in place to limit exposure, reduce the occurrence of ingestion and inhalation of particulates and vapors, and keep patients as safe as possible throughout the process. That said, each office may observe different protocols, so it’s best to address any concerns you have and get information regarding the exact safety precautions your dental practice employs.