Today there are more choices for restorative materials than at any time in the past. Dental amalgam, also known as silver fillings, is one choice for teeth in the back of the mouth that has been in use for around 150 years. Amalgam is a metal alloy that contains silver, tin, copper, and mercury. Amalgam lasts a long time and is less expensive than other materials such as tooth-colored composites, porcelain, or gold.
Amalgam is durable, is not as sensitive to moisture as many other materials, and can be placed in less time than other materials. This makes it a good choice for children and people with special needs who may have difficulty staying open or still during treatment.
Amalgam does have some drawbacks. Amalgam fillings are not natural looking, and this may be a significant issue if the tooth being restored is in an area that shows when speaking/smiling. Another disadvantage is that an amalgam may require the removal of more tooth structure than a tooth-colored composite, for example.
Is amalgam safe?
Silver fillings have been used successfully for around 150 years, but you may wonder about the mercury content in this filling material. When mercury combines with the other metals it forms a stable and safe “amalgam” material. There is more than one form of mercury. There is methylmercury, elemental mercury, and inorganic mercury. Methylmercury, or organic mercury, is the form of mercury that can accumulate in water sources and be absorbed by the fish we eat. If you ever eat canned tuna, you have been exposed to methylmercury. Methylmercury has been linked to various systemic effects. Dental amalgam does not contain methylmercury, but rather elemental mercury. Methylmercury is absorbed through the digestive tract while elemental mercury is absorbed through the lungs from vapor created while chewing. This vapor, while it does exist, is measured in parts per billion, so exposure is very small.
Some people, of course, may be sensitive to some of the ingredients in dental amalgam—mercury, silver, copper, and tin. If there is a sensitivity to these materials, then another material should be chosen for restorations.
Over the course of my career amalgam has been used less and less as other more esthetic materials become available and the demand for more natural appearing restorations increases. Based on the available scientific evidence so far, my opinion is that there is still a place for dental amalgam where finances and patient management are more important than esthetic concerns.
Your safety and your health are our primary concerns. That is the reason we exist as a practice
. If you have concerns, we would be glad to discuss those. If you would like to do some research on your own, I would suggest beginning with the ADA article found at www.mouthhealthy.org
and type “amalgam” in the search box. This gives a good overview and has some great links to other science-based organizations.
What does that word bring to mind? Perhaps, it seems like an unnecessary step in your daily routine. Maybe you can’t go a day without flossing. Whatever you think of, there are many good reasons to floss
. Some of those reasons may seem obvious and others may seem surprising. So…without further delay…
Here is the countdown of the 10 Reasons to floss:
10. Flossing may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease and inflammation is a key player in cardiovascular disease. So reducing inflammation in your gums can reduce your cardiovascular risk.
9. Flossing may reduce the risk of female-specific health issues. Women experience fluctuating hormone levels throughout life. These hormone fluctuations impact the bacteria that grow in the mouth. Hormone-related gum disease seems to increase the risk of low birth weight, pre-term labor, osteoporosis and even fetal death. Though we don’t know at this time if there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between these health issues and periodontal disease, there is definitely a strong correlation.
8. Flossing may reduce complications associated with arthritis. Again, both arthritis and periodontal disease are inflammatory processes and controlling inflammation in one area can help the entire body.
7. Flossing may help prevent weight gain. Obesity and periodontal disease share inflammation in common. There appears to be a link between periodontal disease and metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity around the abdomen, and high cholesterol. It stands to reason that controlling inflammation could be helpful in the battle of the bulge.
6. Flossing can reduce your risk and complications associated with diabetes. Diabetics are more prone to inflammation-related problems and, as we’ve already discussed, flossing reduces inflammation of the gums. Maintaining good oral hygiene has been shown to have a positive impact on glycemic control in Type 2 diabetics.
5. Flossing can help you stay well. Respiratory ailments such as pneumonia and bronchitis are caused by bacterial and viral infections of the lungs. Researchers have found that the bacteria that grow in the mouth can invade the respiratory tract and make symptoms of bronchitis and pneumonia worse. Other studies have shown that elderly patients with good oral hygiene suffer much less frequently from pneumonia.
4. Flossing can prevent periodontal disease.
3. Flossing can prevent cavities that develop in between the teeth.
2. Flossing can help control bad breath. The bacteria that grow between your teeth and below the gumline produce waste that can be very stinky, to say the least.
1. And, finally, the number one reason to floss…So you won’t have to feel guilty about not flossing when your hygienist asks how often you floss!
Photo by Alexander Maasch on Unsplash
I didn’t even mention that having floss available makes a handy cheese or cake slicer (try it, you’ll like it).
All in all, some pretty great reasons to floss. Remember: You don’t have to floss all your teeth, only the ones you want to keep.