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The Demise of Silver Amalgam Dental Fillings?

June 12, 2014 by bridgeways

Many of you may be unaware that a finished dental amalgam filling is approximately 50% mercury by weight. It is this mercury element that has been a source of much controversy over the years – is it completely safe to use in everyone’s mouth or are there exceptions to this long held belief? Like so many debates of this nature there good arguments on both sides, each with conflicting scientific evidence to support their arguments..

Likewise, in the dental profession, there is also divided opinion but over the years there has been a growing number of dentists throughout the world who have made the personal decision to practice “mercury free” dentistry because of the health and safety issues associated with mercury.

Amalgam fillings have been used for over 150 years but there is no doubt that if amalgam was developed as a new material today it would not get approval for use by the relevant authorities. Mercury is the second most toxic metal known to mankind in its “free state”.. It is a commonly held belief that once mercury becomes amalgamated with the other constituents of an amalgam filling, it becomes safe. There is no agreed safe limit for the bodily intake of mercury in all its forms and sources-what may be safe for one person may well be unsafe for the next! Anyone interested in discovering more about this debate and the potential health issues surrounding mercury and especially mercury in dental fillings only has to search online where you will find a wealth of information and even books have been written on this subject.

However, changes are afoot that will affect dentistry as part of a global agreement to reduce the environmental impact of mercury in its multitude of sources. Endorsed at a meeting in Japan in October 2013, this treaty requires nations to phase down the use of dental amalgam fillings over an appropriate period. Several countries have previously banned the use of amalgam fillings for their own reasons but now the rest are set to follow over the coming years. Alternative filling materials such as composite resin have been available for many years but are more expensive and arguably more difficult to be placed properly. However, over recent years tremendous advances have been made with both the composite resin materials themselves and also how they are bonded to the tooth to ensure they are strong and long lasting. In time, new, cheaper materials will be developed to enhance the required phasing down of dental amalgam fillings.

The British Dental Association has welcomed the fact that the recently signed treaty strikes a sensible balance between the very understandable imperative to reduce global mercury emissions and the need for dental professionals to continue the fight to improve oral health so that the need for fillings will be reduced.

The old adage that prevention is better than cure will certainly be a invaluable factor in phasing out of dental amalgam as no fillings are certainly more desirable than any filling, irrespective of what filling material is used. I am sure that is one thing that we can all agree on!

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