If you’ve ever had a cavity filled, chances are your dentist used dental amalgam to do it. Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury. Despite the controversies surrounding dental amalgam, it remains one of the most popular materials used in dental fillings. In this article, we’ll explore why dental amalgam is still used and the pros and cons of this material.
The Pros of Dental Amalgam
Despite the controversies surrounding dental amalgam, there are some advantages to using this material for fillings. Here are some of the pros of dental amalgam:
Durability: Dental amalgam is known for its durability and can last up to 15 years or longer. This means that patients who receive amalgam fillings may not need to have them replaced as often as those who receive other types of fillings.
Cost-effective: Compared to other types of fillings, dental amalgam is relatively inexpensive. This makes it a popular choice for patients who may not have dental insurance or who are on a tight budget.
Easy to use: Dental amalgam is easy for dentists to work with and can be placed quickly and efficiently. This means that patients can often have their fillings completed in just one appointment.
Strength: Dental amalgam is strong and can withstand the forces of chewing and biting. This makes it an ideal choice for fillings in the back teeth, which endure the most pressure during chewing.
The Cons of Dental Amalgam
While there are advantages to using dental amalgam, there are also some disadvantages. Here are some of the cons of dental amalgam:
Aesthetics: One of the most significant drawbacks of dental amalgam is that it is not aesthetically pleasing. Amalgam fillings are silver in color and can be visible when a patient speaks or smiles.
Mercury Content: Dental amalgam contains small amounts of mercury, which has raised concerns about its safety. While the American Dental Association and other organizations consider dental amalgam safe, some patients and advocacy groups have called for its use to be restricted or banned.
Expansion and Contraction: Dental amalgam can expand and contract over time, which can cause cracks or fractures in the tooth. This can lead to further dental problems or the need for additional treatment.
Removal Difficulties: Removing dental amalgam can be difficult and may require more extensive drilling than other types of fillings. This can lead to additional damage to the tooth or other dental problems.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is dental amalgam safe?
The American Dental Association and other organizations consider dental amalgam safe. However, some patients and advocacy groups have raised concerns about its safety due to the small amounts of mercury it contains.
Can dental amalgam cause health problems?
While some patients and advocacy groups have raised concerns about the potential health risks of dental amalgam, there is no conclusive evidence that it causes health problems.
Can dental amalgam fillings be replaced?
Yes, dental amalgam fillings can be replaced with other types of fillings if a patient desires. However, removing dental amalgam can be difficult and may require more extensive drilling than other types of fillings.
What are some alternatives to dental amalgam?
Some alternatives to dental amalgam include composite resin fillings, ceramic fillings, and gold fillings. Composite resin fillings are tooth-colored and blend in with the surrounding teeth, making them a more aesthetically pleasing option. Ceramic fillings are made of porcelain and are also tooth-colored, but are more expensive than other types of fillings. Gold fillings are durable and long-lasting, but are also more expensive and not as aesthetically pleasing as composite resin or ceramic fillings.
Can pregnant women get dental amalgam fillings?
The American Dental Association and other organizations consider dental amalgam safe for pregnant women. However, some women may choose to avoid dental amalgam during pregnancy due to concerns about the small amounts of mercury it contains. If you are pregnant and have concerns about dental amalgam, talk to your dentist about alternative options.
Dental amalgam remains a popular choice for fillings despite the controversies surrounding its use. While dental amalgam has its pros and cons, it is important for patients to weigh the benefits and risks and make an informed decision about their dental treatment. If you have concerns about dental amalgam, talk to your dentist about alternative options such as composite resin, ceramic, or gold fillings. Ultimately, the most important thing is to maintain good oral hygiene and get regular dental checkups to prevent the need for fillings in the first place.