How safe is amalgam?
Dental amalgam safety has been reviewed extensively for a number of years and the World Health Organization (WHO), in its Consensus Statement on Dental Amalgam wrote: “Amalgam restorations are safe and cost-effective… The risk of adverse side-effects is very low for all types of restorative materials, including amalgam and all resin-based materials.” Similar conclusions were reached by the USPHS, the European Commission, the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden, the New Zealand Ministry of Health, Health Canada and the province of Quebec. For that reason, the ADA sees no positive gain in replacing amalgam fillings for any reason other than aesthetic ones
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) holds that amalgam is not harmful. Investigation continues but there is no evidence that shows amalgams cause harm to patients.
That said, your dentist will likely use white fillings in your front teeth and with the help of technology, scientists have now developed a strong white filling material for back teeth too. Why? Because of the public demand for fillings in visible areas to be tooth-coloured.
It’s interesting to note that In 1983-4, amalgam was used in 68% of all fillings in Australia, but by the late 1990’s this had reduced to less than 30% (NHMRC 1999).
Every year, thousands of people in Australia have amalgam fillings; dental amalgam is inexpensive, strong and can last a lifetime. Amalgam is actually an alloy (a metal made by combining two or more metallic elements) of silver, tin, copper and mercury.
What are some of the alternatives to amalgam fillings for treating tooth decay?
If you develop tooth decay (dental caries) your dentist will probably choose a filling as an option to treat the tooth; and depending on its location, the filling may well be amalgam.
Dental fillings are used to fill in the middle or outer surface of a tooth and may be a composite resin, silver amalgam or the very popular porcelain filling.
Another option is a dental crown or ‘cap’; it fits over the eroded part of a tooth and can be made from porcelain or gold.
Sometimes, a tooth is so badly decayed the only course of action might be an extraction. It sounds drastic but it can help prevent the spread of infection. Your dentist may advise you to replace the tooth being removed with a dental implant.
Root canal surgery is another treatment for severe tooth decay. It sounds extreme but fortunately, dental technology has advanced to such a level, it is a lot less painful than it used to be.
Yet another treatment is the use of dental sealants, which can be applied to the grooves or ‘fissures’ within your teeth and will help to protect them. This is more of a preventative treatment than one for solving a problem of tooth decay.
If left untreated, tooth decay can cause complications such as gingivitis and periodontal gum disease, abscesses and require teeth extractions.
Tooth decay is preventible. Use the accepted dental precautions such as brushing and flossing as part of your dental routine and nip the problem in it’s bud.