An amalgam filling consists of an alloy made up of silver, tin, copper, zinc and mercury.
This fills a tooth by being injected into a hole and then setting – holding the tooth together in the process.
Over the past several years, concerns have been raised about silver-colored fillings, otherwise called amalgams fillings. Because these fillings contain the toxic substance mercury, some people think they are responsible for causing a number of diseases, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
The American Dental Association (ADA), the FDA, and numerous public health agencies say there's no proof that dental fillings cause harm to consumers. Although amalgams do contain mercury, when they are mixed with other metals, such as silver, copper, tin, and zinc, they form a stable alloy that dentists have used for more than 100 years to fill and preserve hundreds of millions of decayed teeth.
Advantages of amalgam filling:
- amalgam fillings are strong and can withstand the forces of chewing;
- they are relatively inexpensive, compared with alternatives;
- an amalgam filling can be completed in one dental visit.
Disadvantages of amalgam filling:
- amalgam doesn't match the color of your teeth;
- healthy parts of your tooth often must be removed to make a space large enough to hold an amalgam filling;
- amalgam fillings can corrode or tarnish over time, causing discoloration where the filling meets the tooth;
- a traditional (non-bonded) amalgam filling does not bond (stick) to your tooth. The cavity preparation (the "pocket" in your tooth) developed by your dentist requires undercuts or ledges to provide retention of the filling. Your dentist may have to remove additional tooth structure to establish good retention for the filling;
- some people may be allergic to mercury or be concerned about its effects, although research shows the amount of mercury exposure from fillings is similar to what people get from other sources in the environment.
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