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Question: What is dental amalgam?

Amalgam is a mixture of many materials such as silver, copper, tin and mercury. The term 'silver filling' is synonymous with dental amalgam, which describes the silver appearance of the material, but which is actually caused by both silver and mercury. As these fillings tarnish and corrode with age, they become black.  Modern formulas for dental amalgam contain far less mercury than in the past, but can still be more than 25% of the makeup of the filling material.

Question: Is the use or presence of dental amalgam in the human body safe?

The presence of mercury in amalgams has been a controversy in dentistry since the late 1800's. To date, there have not been any independent studies that link the use of dental amalgam to other health problems for the vast majority of individuals.  However, the reality is that a small percentage of the population does demonstrate a hypersensitivity to mercury or one of the several other components in amalgam. In addition, many individuals have been shown to be sensitive to metals other than mercury, as in the use of certain types of jewelry. People who demonstrate sensitivity to any heavy metal should seek other options for restoring decayed or fractured teeth. Although each patient is recognized as an individual, Dr. Long has adopted the philosophy to care for all his patients as if they were members of his own family and has chosen not to use dental amalgam as a restorative material on any of his patients. With advances in science and technology, we now have materials and options that are far better than technology from the nineteenth century. During your diagnostic review, Dr. Long will advise you to seek alternatives for amalgam fillings if deemed appropriate.

Question: My doctor has told me to have my mercury fillings removed, can it be done safely?

Yes,  If your doctor has recommended the safe removal of your amalgam fillings, or if you are concerned that your amalgams are causing changes to your health, they can be removed safely. Dr. Long follows the protocol for amalgam removal developed by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT). You can view the protocol here.

Question: What alternatives to dental amalgams exist?

Numerous alternatives exist for amalgam restorations. At present, gold inlays, onlays and crowns are all options. Composite Resin Dental Fillings have become a wonderfully versatile filling material, thanks to a huge increase in discovery and innovation. These fillings are made of plastic dental resin combined with porcelain and glass particles. This innovative material combined with Dr. Long's vast experience in Engineering and Cosmetic Dentistry give him the ability to create natural looking fillings with resin, where the patient's friends and family may not be able to tell which teeth are the "real" teeth and which ones have fillings. 

All porcelain crowns, inlays, onlays and veneers, as well as types of porcelain fused-to-ceramic or fused-to-gold crowns can be excellent alternatives to older silver fillings. Dr. Long usually prefers porcelain, porcelain fused to ceramic ('Procera' or 'Lava') or composite, as this allows them to bond to a tooth with the strength that exceeds the tooth's own bond to itself. He will advise you as to which type of restoration would give you the healthiest, longest lasting result.

Question: What other reasons exist for removal of dental amalgams?

The main flaw associated with older dental amalgams is that there is no true bond between the metal and the tooth and starting from the very first day it is placed, microleakage occurs between the filling and the tooth causing a corosive layer to form between the tooth and the filling.  It is this corrosive layer which "seals" the restoration. With time, this corrosive seal can leak and decay can develop underneath. In addition, metals expand and contract when exposed to heat and cold differently than tooth, and this can result in fractures, which develop over time as we eat, chew, and drink. Lastly, even though the mercury that is lost from fillings over time is very slow, many feel that a slow, but continuous, mercury exposure may not be advantageous to one's health. We advise all of our patients to educate themselves on all aspects of their healthcare. There exist many excellent websites on the issue of mercury removal. We encourage you to visit our Links section.

Amalgam Fillings:

  • Contain mercury, which expands and contracts with hot and cold fluids differently than natural tooth structure, causing leakage and decay over time
  • Require more tooth to be removed to hold the filling in place resulting in unnecessary tooth structure loss and weakening of the remaining tooth
  • Can create a gap between the tooth and restoration due to chewing forces; Over time a fracture may occur
  • Can discolor the tooth around the filling making it appear gray or black
  • Are an unsightly and potentially unhealthy alternative to modern restorative dentistry

Call us today to find out if you are a candidate for replacing your old silver fillings with new white ones!