Nearly all dental issues can be addressed nowadays thanks to all the advanced development and research that’s made in the dental industry. One of the most common types of dental issues people deal with is that of cavities and tooth decay. Fortunately, fillings are a dental solution that help restore the tooth and prevent further decay, and one of the most common types of fillings is an amalgam one.
What is Amalgam?
Amalgam is a type of dental filling that’s used to fix dental cavities and restore the biting surface of a tooth that’s been worn away by decay. Dental amalgam has been used for more than 150 years to repair teeth in millions of patients around the world. It’s essentially a mixture of metals that consists of liquid mercury and powdered alloys of tin, silver and copper. It’s sometimes referred to as “silver fillings” because of its silver appearance. At least 50% of this type of filling is made up of elemental mercury because it’s needed to bond the alloys together so that they fill the tooth they’re being poured into.
Benefits of Dental Amalgam
One of the reasons why dental amalgam is often utilized is because of its strength and durability. Amalgam is much less likely to break than other types of fillings. Additionally, it’s one of the least expensive types of dental fillings when its lifespan and initial cost are both taken into consideration.
It Contains Mercury: Is It Safe?
Some people have concerns about the safety of dental amalgams because they contain mercury. Although high levels of mercury vapor exposure are associated with adverse health effects, the FDA has reviewed the most advanced scientific evidence to determine whether the low levels of mercury vapor associated with dental amalgams pose a risk factor to patients. The FDA has repeatedly found dental amalgams to be safe for adults and children 6 years and older.
Is It the Same Type of Mercury Found in Fish?
The mercury found in dental amalgams is not the same type of mercury found in fish, so patients don’t have to worry about the same types of health concerns from mercury exposure as they have to worry about when ingesting large amounts of fish. Whereas, the mercury used in dental amalgams is elemental, the kind found in fish is a type of organic mercury that is mainly absorbed through the digestive track. The elemental mercury used in amalgams is absorbed through vapors into the lungs, and the body has different tolerance levels of the type of mercury it absorbs, making the small amount found in amalgams much safer than the type of mercury commonly associated with large consumptions of fish.
How are Dental Amalgams Placed?
Before placing a dental amalgam, the dentist drills the tooth to remove any decay. Then, he or she uses the drill or air abrasion to shape the tooth for proper placement of the amalgam. Next, the dentist forms a putty by mixing the liquid mercury with the powered alloys. He or she then places it within the tooth to fill it when it rapidly hardens into a solid filling.
Ramesh Bharti, Kulvinder Kaur Wadhwani, Aseem Prakash Tikku, and Anil Chandra. “Dental amalgam: An update.” Retrieved on October 7, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010024/.
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