Are Metal Dental Fillings Safe?

When tooth decay is mild, a dental filling procedure usually helps halt the spread of infection and save your tooth. For over 150 years, the filling material of choice was amalgam, a metal mixture composed of silver, tin, copper, zinc, mercury, and sometimes other metals. Amalgam has remained popular as an inexpensive dental restoration, yet debates have raged over its mercury content. Mercury exposure has been linked to adverse health effects in the brain and kidney, so people have always been wary of pouring the metal into their teeth. Your Sheridan dentists at Grinnell Street Dental discuss the controversy of metal dental amalgam.

The Amalgam War

In the 1830’s, two French brothers introduced amalgam fillings to the United States. The Crawcours brothers named their product royal mineral succedaneum. Within ten years, their product comprised half of the dental restorations placed in upstate New York. Many dentists objected to placing their patients at risk for mercury poisoning, and in 1845, the American Society of Dental Surgeons (ASDS) asked its members to pledge never to use it. At the time, however, gold was the only alternative filling material, and since patients did not develop symptoms of poisoning after leaving the dentist’s office, economics trumped the worries of the ASDS. By the end of the 1850s, the ASDS disbanded.

Problems With Amalgam Fillings

Mercury worries aside, metal amalgam fillings pose other problems that can lead to filling failure and the need to redo the procedure. Because they’re made of metal, amalgam restorations can expand and contract in heat or cold, which can cause the tooth to crack or fracture. This can also create spaces between the tooth structure and the filling, where bacteria can enter and cause another infection. At Grinnell Street Dental, we offer a metal-free dental restoration made of a tooth-colored plastic material. Composite resin fillings look and feel like natural tooth structure, and are bonded to teeth to produce a solid and unchanging restoration. They also require less removal of healthy tooth structure, so more of your natural tooth remains.
If you wish to replace your old metal fillings with a more discrete and dependable alternative, schedule a consultation by contacting our Sheridan dental office at (307) 672-7567. We welcome patients from Sheridan, WY and the surrounding communities.