Silver Fillings, Mercury and Your Health

Silver Fillings Before Removal

Failing silver fillings

Do you have silver fillings in your mouth? A majority of Americans do, as silver fillings have been go-to filling material in dentistry for many years. Today we have tooth colored restorations, which don’t contain the toxic mercury which the amalgam fillings contain. When I started in dentistry over thirty years ago I worked in an office that had a machine that mixed those silver fillings prior to placement. I used what was then termed a squeeze cloth to squeeze out the excess merecury. The mercury would roll around the table after being squeezed out. If that happened today we would have to call the hazmat team to isolate the area so a complete decontamination could be accomplished. It is amazing how things have changed and have not changed in the last thirty years. Currently we have capsules which contain the exact amounts of mercury that are required so squeeze cloths are no longer required. Excess mercury is

New Composite Fillings

After replacement of silver fillings

no longer squeezed out of  silver fillings which are placed in the mouth. But amazingly enough old silver fillings which are removed from the mouth now have to be treated as hazardous waste which we have to collect to protect the environment from its ill effects. We can still use these material in spite of their makeup. It seems that there are more stringent standards for the external environment than there are for our physical environment.

Dental Amalgam and Mercury Levels

A recent study at the University of Georgia which analyzed data from almost 15000 participants indicated that there is a correlation between mercury levels in the body and the amount of dental amalgam in the mouth. People with eight or more surfaces of silver fillings were found to have  have 150% more mercury in their systems. The mercury in silver fillings continuously leaches out into our bodies. It is important to note that these increased levels have not been shown to be associated with any diseases although these levels can potentially have a negative effect on our bodies.

Mercury-How Much is Too Much?

The real question is how much mercury do you want to allow yourself to be exposed to. How much is too much?  We are exposed to mercury through our diet in the food we eat. All fish in our diet contain some levels of mercury. Even freshwater fish from lakes and rivers. The EPA did a study of  freshwater fish and found 100% of the fish contaminated with Mercury and 49% at significant levels. Saltwater fish are no better. The bigger the fish the more mercury present. There is a great website which can help you determine your mercury exposure from fish. This is especially important for pregnant women and children. This issue hit home with me when my wife was diagnosed with mercury  toxicity several years ago. She exhibited muscle twitching, vertigo and  hair loss. As a registered dietitian she had a healthy diet but the fish in her diet was poisoning her. Her physician at the time was clueless as to  the cause or treatment.  Removal of all fish from her diet was needed.

Silver Filling Removal

At this time I don’t recommend the wholesale removal of amalgams from my patients mouths though I do endorse their removal at my patients request. Today I rarely place amalgam fillings, as I believe that tooth colored bonded restorations are a significantly better material as they can make teeth stronger, are more esthetic and don’t contain mercury. Tooth colored restorations can be a true restoration of a tooth.  They can restore a tooth to its original condition and you might not even know it’s been fixed. That’s something silver fillings never accomplish. A silver amalgam filling does just as it says, it fills a hole in a tooth and  looks silver,  but it unfortunately also weakens a tooth.

I recommend replacing amalgam restorations as soon as they start to fail.  I never believe in “watching that one” as that is waiting for trouble. As amalgams age they have a tendency to expand. Leaving them in for too long results in  a fractured teeth which often results in the need for a root canal,  a crown or even an extraction.  This can be prevented by the timely replacement of these old silver fillings. Getting rid of the mercury is an added benefit to the procedure.

Better Choices Mean a Better  Life

I believe that when we are informed we make better choices and have a better life. Toxic substances are all around us. When we have the opportunity to limit our exposure to these substances we can improve our health. It is impossible to avoid these toxins but decreasing our exposure can have the ability to reduce the detrimental effects on our health. If you have further questions you can reach me at The Center for Cosmetic Dentistry. I look forward to keeping you healthy and putting a smile on your face.

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