There have been some concerns recently about the safety of silver fillings. Some people have been so alarmed they actually thought about having all their silver (amalgam) fillings removed and replaced with the newer option of composite resin! We sat down with Dr. Martin and asked him “Are silver fillings safe?”
FDA Found Silver Fillings Are Safe
Silver fillings have been used for 150 years. The concern about their safety was due to the mercury in silver alloy fillings. However based on studies done in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration announced silver alloy fillings are safe and that there is no scientific evidence that this type of amalgam filling has dangerous levels of mercury. The FDA found that silver fillings release elemental mercury vapor at a rate of 1-3 micrograms per day, which is not even remotely close to being a toxic amount. A person would need to have over 300 amalgam fillings in their mouth to start showing even the tiniest level of toxicity. Chances are there’s more naturally occurring mercury in a can of tuna than in the silver fillings in your mouth.
How Did the Concern for the Safety of Silver Fillings Start?
A lot of this alarm started back in the mid 90’s when Hal Huggins, a dentist in Colorado, started tricking his chronically ill patients into believing their illnesses were caused by the mercury in their silver amalgam fillings. Although these folks had serious neurological issues such as dementia, MS, and Parkinson’s, he convinced them they needed to allow him to remove their silver fillings and replace them with resin to cure their illnesses. It was all a money making scam and his license has since been revoked, but damage from the false information regarding the safety of silver fillings lingered.
Why Do Many Dentists No Longer Use Silver Fillings?
According to the American Dental Association 52% of dentists in the U.S. don’t use alloy, but 48% still use silver alloy fillings. Dr.Martin and Dr.Taylor haven’t used alloy silver fillings for about the last 8 years. This is not because silver fillings aren’t safe; it is more because the technology used to produce the white composite resin has dramatically improved. The white composite resin used today is significantly more durable, adheres to the tooth better and is aesthetically more desirable since it matches the tooth color.
Should I Have My Silver Fillings Replaced?
Dr. Martin did say there are times when silver fillings should be replaced, but not because of mercury toxicity. A silver filling should be replaced if it has begun to break down or the tooth shows any type of deterioration around the filling. This can happen just due to the length of time the filling has been in the mouth. In other words, the older the filling, the more likely it has started to deteriorate and should be replaced.
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