Dental Amalgam: 150 years of Safety and Effectiveness

Used for more than 150 years, dental amalgam (a.k.a. silver filling) is a safe, affordable and durable material used to restore the teeth of more than 100 million Americans. It contains a mixture of metals such as silver, copper and tin, in addition to mercury, which chemically binds these components into a hard, stable and safe substance.

Dental amalgam has an indisputable safety record and has been extensively reviewed. The U.S. Public Health Service issued a report in 1993 stating there is no health reason not to use amalgam, except in the extremely rare case of the patient who is allergic to a component of amalgam. This supports the findings of the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health Technology Assessment Conference and the National Institutes of Dental Research, that dental amalgam is a safe and effective restorative material. In addition, in 1991, Consumer Reports noted that "given their solid track record...amalgam fillings are still your best bet."

People are exposed to more total mercury from food, water and air than from the minuscule amounts of mercury vapor generated from amalgam fillings.

There is no scientific evidence that exposure to mercury from amalgam restorations poses a serious health risk in humans, except for the exceedingly small number of allergic reactions. In 150 years of use, there have only been 100 documented cases of allergic reactions to amalgam in dental literature.

In 1991, the FDA's Dental Products Panel found there was no reason to remove amalgam fillings. The U.S. Public Health Service found in 1993 "no persuasive reason to believe that avoiding amalgams or having them removed will have a beneficial effect on health." In fact, it is inadvisable to have amalgams removed unnecessarily because it can cause structural damage to healthy teeth.

Claims that the removal of amalgam leads to recovery from multiple sclerosis or that the use of amalgam leads to arthritis or Alzheimer's disease are unsubstantiated and without scientifically established cause and effect.

The ADA supports ongoing research in the development of new materials that it hopes will someday prove to be as safe and effective as dental amalgam. Current alternatives, such as composite resins, have not been as effective as dental amalgam in providing a durable and long- lasting restoration, especially in the case of large fillings.

The ADA concurs with the findings of the U.S. Public Health Service that amalgam has "continuing value in maintaining oral health."

A recent study of approximately 1,700 dentists reported in the November 1995 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) concludes that dentists are now less exposed to mercury in their practices, as indicated by dropping levels of mercury concentrations found during urinary screenings, due to increased use of precautions as they create and apply dental amalgams.

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Stuart A. Greene, DDS-FAGD
2009 Birdcreek Terrace Temple, TX 76502 254.773.9007 | Fax 254.773.8051
©2004 Stuart A. Greene, DDS-FAGD | Online since 1996 | Updated Continuously

Information Source: ADA News: The American Dental Association