There’s Always a Silver Lining

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I was asked again today – are amalgam/silver fillings safe? The short answer is yes, they are generally safe.

The concern with silver dental fillings centers on their mercury content. Elemental mercury in high levels causes many health problems. It can be toxic to people’s nervous systems, lungs and kidneys.

Though there is mercury in silver amalgam, it is bonded to other metals. One test showed a minimal amount of mercury vapor created when silver amalgam is ground against teeth. This amount is very small; much less than that absorbed from eating seafood.

Most major health organizations have reviewed silver amalgam studies and found the material safe for general usage. Both the American Dental Association and the World Health Organization rate dental amalgam as safe. In addition, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration all consider silver amalgam safe for patients.

There are a handful of patients who might consider an alternative to silver amalgam. There are a small number of people who appear allergic to mercury or the metals (silver, tin, copper, zinc) used in silver amalgam. Pregnant women, very young or breastfed children are also good groups to avoid placement of new silver fillings.

Do we place silver amalgams? Yes, without hesitation. But we are also more than happy to place other types of restorations. This naturally leads to a discussion of alternative restorative products, which I will discuss in the near future.

Do you have a question about dental fillings or another dental procedure? You can “Ask the Dentists” and Drs. Fabozzi and Winter will respond as soon as possible.


To fill or not to fill, that is the question…

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Like the tread on your car tires, dental work is not “permanent,” and experiences wear and tear as time passes. The average dental crown will last approximately eight years; after which work will be required to have them replaced. But, with meticulous home care, the crown, as well as all dental work, will last longer. With poor home care, dental work may need to be replaced at any time, depending on damage and decay.

Typically, our first dental fillings are small and last a very long time. The replacements are larger and have a shorter life span. The larger the filling, the shorter it’s lifetime; the type of filling being a key factor in determining the length of time it remains viable. Large silver fillings last much longer than large tooth-colored fillings. Small silver fillings last about the same length of time as small-tooth colored fillings. (Mercury in silver fillings are another concern of which I will address in a future blog entry.)

At some point, the option to replace a large filling with an even bigger one is not practical, due to its probable short lifetime. At this time, a crown, partial crown, or onlay is the best choice because it will last longer, making it the next logical step for most of us.

Do you have a question about dental crowns or another dental procedure? “Ask the Dentists” to get a response from Dr. Fabozzi or Dr. Winter.