For many of us, going for a dental check-up can bring up a lot of anxiety – “What is the dentist going to tell us this time?”
The dreaded sentence “You have a cavity,” doesn’t exactly fill us with joy! But hey – it happens to the best of us. And with the advancements in dentistry nowadays, there are several options to consider for tooth repair.
Traditional amalgam fillings are now becoming a thing of the past and today most dentists will also offer their patients alternatives. However, if you are told you need an amalgam filling or two, then you may want to know exactly what they are and why they continue to be such a controversial topic.
What exactly are amalgam fillings?
Amalgam fillings or “silver fillings” have been used in dentistry since 1833, and they are still used today by around half of all dentists in the US. The fact that they are not referred to as “mercury fillings” has always been quite deceptive considering they are made up of fifty percent mercury with a combination of silver, copper, tin and other trace metals.
Liquid mercury is used as the main binding element, so is an essential component in amalgam. Amalgam has been the material of choice, particularly for molars, due to its strength, durability, and longevity, which is why amalgam restorations generally last for a very long time. These types of fillings are also inexpensive compared to other fillings. However, the use of amalgam comes at a high price when it comes to the well-being of the individual.
A few reasons why amalgam fillings may not be the best option for you…
⦁ Often healthy parts of the tooth are removed in order to make enough space for the amalgam filling
⦁ The tooth can be weakened causing cracks and fractures
⦁ Discoloring of the outer tooth structure can occur
⦁ The silver color of the filling is very visible
⦁ Some people have sensitivities or allergies to certain elements within amalgams
⦁ Finally… (and this is a biggy)… amalgam may cause mercury poisoning!
We are all exposed to small amounts of mercury, whether we have amalgam fillings or not. Mercury is used for various industrial uses such as electrical equipment, medical appliances, paints, and, of course, dental work, which ultimately means it ends up in landfill, our oceans, and the air we breathe. Studies have shown that amalgam fillings can release a toxic mercury vapor that can damage the nervous, reproductive, and cardiovascular systems.
It can be difficult to measure if increased mercury levels from amalgam fillings relate to specific health problems. Some studies have shown health improvements after the removal of amalgams, while other studies have shown no change at all.
Even so, individuals with dental amalgam fillings have shown measurable amounts of mercury in their blood and urine. This is because when the mercury from the filling evaporates and is inhaled, it is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Small amounts of mercury are also released when people grind their teeth or chew food. However, scientific research (discussed below) is in agreement that with these small amounts of mercury being released and absorbed into the body, it does not pose a risk to human health.
What do World Organizations say about amalgams?
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), American Dental Association (ADA) and World Health Organization (WHO) continue to affirm, after a seemingly thorough evaluation of scientific studies, that the use of amalgam has no adverse health effects and is safe to use. They do suggest, however, that caution should be taken, especially for those with allergies to metals, children under 6, and pregnant women.
According to the FDA:
“The developing neurological systems in fetuses and young children may be more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of mercury vapor. Very limited to no clinical data is available regarding long-term health outcomes in pregnant women and their developing fetuses, and children under the age of six, including infants who are breastfed.”
Although these huge scientific organizations state repeatedly that amalgam is safe, the evidence against the use of mercury in fillings is mounting and many “traditional” dentists are becoming more aware of its risks.
Momentum is building to eliminate the use of mercury and it is now starting to influence policymakers…
In July 2018, the European Union banned the use of mercury in fillings for children under 15 years old and pregnant women. There is also increasing pressure to ban it completely, not just due to the health problems caused by toxicity or the occupational hazard it poses to the dental staff, but also the detrimental effect it has on the environment.
“The use of mercury in dental amalgam is the largest use of mercury in the Union and a significant source of pollution. The use of dental amalgam should, therefore, be phased down in accordance with the [Minamata] Convention and with national plans..”
– EU regulation
In August 2017, at the Minamata Convention on Mercury, over 120 countries signed a legally binding treaty to phase out the use of dental mercury. This was a huge statement to the general public that the safety of mercury, including that in amalgam, is questionable. It is also a huge leap towards ultimately banning mercury altogether!
Mercury is used predominantly for dentistry in the US and although the said treaty was signed, there seems to be some reluctance when it comes to implementing a ban and offering alternatives.
Yet, the alternatives are both affordable and effective:
Jessica Saepoff, former Commissioner of the Washington State Dental Quality Assurance Commission, states:
“Mercury-free dentistry is practical, it is a superior technology and it is tooth-friendly – minimally invasive – while amalgam is not.”
It’s almost common sense that using a toxic material, such as mercury, in the mouth can have detrimental consequences on health.
Just remember that if you are in the dentist chair and being told you will have amalgam fillings, you can insist on finding out about other options, or go and see another dentist! When it comes to your own health and the health of future generations, it’s worth paying a little more for a more eco-friendly option.
Other options for fillings:
⦁ Gold cast: strong, durable, long lasting. However, these are non-tooth colored and expensive
⦁ Composite resin: made of ceramics and plastic compounds. They bond very well to the tooth structure, are natural looking but not as durable as gold or amalgam fillings
⦁ Ceramic: made of porcelain, resistant to staining and durable
⦁ Glass Ionomer: made of acrylic, not as durable as other types of filling
Removal of amalgams
It’s definitely worth researching in detail all of your options, as even some of the alternatives may have a few drawbacks. Holistic dentists will never offer you an amalgam restoration and will strongly recommend that you replace all of your existing amalgams.
If you choose to go down the holistic route, it is highly recommended to seek a well reputed holistic dentist, even if it means paying a bit more. That’s because they are much more thorough in protecting the patient against mercury exposure and their advanced precautionary procedures help dramatically to reduce the inhalation of mercury vapor.
oral care with Good-Gums at home helps prevent cavities!
Ideally, we do not want to have any fillings in the first place, and prevention is always better than cure! This is why looking after your teeth and gums is of utmost importance and can be maintained through a healthy, balanced diet and good oral hygiene. Using Good-Gums tooth and gum powder– a completely natural alternative to toothpaste – as part of your daily dental regimen, will help to protect tooth enamel. This means – goodbye cavities, which also means – goodbye fillings! Hurrah!
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