Uh-oh. While visiting the dentist for a check-up you’ve learned that, despite your exhaustive efforts to keep your child’s mouth clean, some stubborn residue remained and is now causing a cavity in your child’s beautiful smile. It’s important to remove the tooth decay and receive a filling in order to prevent further decay, but what type of filling should your child receive?
What are “Silver” Fillings?
Dental amalgam is what most people commonly know as “silver” fillings and is a mixture of metals comprising liquid elemental mercury, silver, tin and copper. Dental amalgam fillings have been called “silver” fillings because their appearance resembles that of silver, even though it consists of elements besides silver.
Approximately 50% of dental amalgam is (elemental) mercury by weight. Using elemental mercury is necessary in creating amalgam because its chemical properties enable it to bind the silver, copper and tin particles together. It also makes the filling material pliable so that the compound is soft enough to press into a tooth, yet hard enough (when dried) to withstand the forces of biting, talking and chewing.
Why Use Amalgam at all?
For over 150 years, dentists have used dental amalgam to fill cavities. Amalgam is strong and durable. It is less likely to crack or break than other types of fillings. It generally lasts a patient 10-15 years without issue.
Amalgam also may be less expensive than other types of fillings, which is why many parents, especially those who have multiple children or have a child who needs multiple fillings, choose amalgam.
Growing Concern for Amalgam
In recent decades, people have questioned the safety of using dental amalgam to fill cavities because of its mercury content.
Scientists do know that amalgam releases low levels of mercury in the form of vapor, and these vapor particles can be inhaled and absorbed by the lungs. It is also known that high levels of exposure to mercury vapor are associated with adverse effects in the kidneys and the brain.
Some people believe that a toxic substance, like mercury, could be responsible for cases of autism, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Evidence for this, however, is inconclusive.
Is Amalgam Safe?
After reviewing this evidence in 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have deemed amalgam fillings safe for adults and children over the age of 6. The credible scientific evidence reviewed by the FDA did not show a correlative relationship between the mercury released in dental amalgam and adverse health effects in the general population.
Furthermore, it is important to note that mercury is a naturally occurring metal found in the environment. Mercury can enter your body through the air you breathe, the food you eat, and the water you drink. Studies have shown that the amount of mercury released into your body through amalgam is no more than that which enters your body through the environment.
Despite FDA conclusions, concern still exists and some groups have asked the FDA to reconsider. This review is underway, and many parents are not willing to take the risk with metal fillings.
Furthermore, because clinical data is very limited or non-existent for mercury’s effect on pregnant women and fetuses, breastfed infants, or children under the age of six, patients who fall within these circumstances should talk to their dentist about the safest options available to them.
Alternative Types of Fillings
Whether due to possible health concerns or other reasons, if you feel that amalgam fillings are not right for your child, talk to your dentist about alternative filling types. There are other options available to your child.
- Composite Resin: made from plastic and small glass particles.
- Ceramic: most commonly made from porcelain
- Glass Ionomer: made from acrylic and a component of glass called fluoroaluminosilicate
Advantages of Non Metal Fillings
Besides averting a possible health risk, you may choose a non-metal filling for your child due to one of the many other benefits these offer, including:
- Aesthetic Appeal: Non-metal fillings, especially composite resin fillings, match the color of your teeth and therefore looks far more natural. This is especially important when fixing front teeth.
- Strength of Tooth: Non-metal fillings bond directly to the tooth, making the tooth itself stronger than those with amalgam fillings and preventing future fractures.
- Less Drilling: Most children and adults hate the sound of a dentist’s drill. The less drilling, often the more pleasant the visit.
- Less sensitive to heat and cold: Metal fillings are more prone to toothaches because they are more sensitive to heat and cold. Metal-Free fillings will be less sensitive.
- Protection and Prevention: A non-metal filling of glass ionomer actually releases fluoride, which can help protect the tooth from further decay.
Ready to choose metal-free fillings?
It’s no surprise that you want what is best for you child, and here at Children and Teen Dental, we do too. If you are in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area, then contact us today to schedule an appointment at either of our two locations to discuss the metal-free fillings we can offer your child. Because of our commitment to the latest in dental technology and the best for your child, we choose to offer metal-free fillings. Let us begin to take care of their beautiful smiles so that hopefully, in the future, choosing a filling type will not even be a necessary decision!