Dental Fillings: Amalgam or Composite

Although amalgam restorations enjoy a long history in the repair of teeth, the doctors at PI Dental Center have embraced the newest technologies available to our profession. To that end, we restore our patients teeth with highly polishable composite restorations (white fillings) that offer advanced shade matching and opacity. This type of restoration contains no mercury. The restoration is bonded and sealed for maximum longevity and durability. In addition, our composite bonded restorations are esthetically in a class of their own as compared to traditional amalgam (silver) fillings.

Many patients have questions about the safety of amalgam fillings containing mercury. Some patients request to have their existing amalgam fillings removed and replaced with composite restorations. It is important to be aware that patients might be exposing themselves to more mercury when a filling is removed. Some studies have shown a temporary spike of mercury levels in urine when amalgam fillings are removed. This increase lasts only a few days.

The dentists at PI Dental Center are willing to replace any amalgam fillings for a patient as long as they are aware that there is a temporary risk of exposure to mercury while the old filling is removed. While most amalgams can be replaced with composite restorations, some fillings may require replacement with crowns.

How much mercury exposure occurs from dental fillings?

Most Americans have seven to eight fillings. One microgram is released daily per seven fillings, according to the 1997 World Health Organization report. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram. By comparison, we absorb five to six micrograms of mercury from food and water sources each day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The upper limit of permissible exposure set by government safety standards for workers is equal to about 460 micrograms a day.

Is there a health risk from daily low-level mercury exposure from dental fillings?

We do not know if the trace amounts of mercury that are released daily from dental fillings has an impact on a person’s health. The World Health Organization has looked at various levels of mercury exposure and determined the threshold for when mercury exposure becomes toxic. Based on those studies, it would take 265 to 312 amalgam fillings to reach toxic levels of mercury exposure, according to J. Rodway Mackert, dental professor and materials-science expert at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

Some consumers and advocacy groups believe there is a link between mercury fillings and multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic-fatigue problems. There is no scientifically credible evidence supporting any link. But since the health impact is not fully understood, several European countries have restricted the use of dental amalgam and ruled that it should not be used in pregnant women.

How Biting Forces Effect Teeth With Large Fillings

Pi Dental Center, Fort Washington, PA