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Understanding Amalgam the Simple Way

Jun 21, 2008
There is a myth going around which states that there are other materials that can be used to treat caveties, but the American Dental Association promotes the use of dental amalgam instead because it earns a profit from amalgam manufacturers. This myth is false. The ADA does not profit when patients use dental amalgam and it does not necessarily promote it. The ADA does promote education and awareness so that patients can make informed decisions about their oral health care together with their dentist. The choice of which filling material to use is determined by the dentist and patient together and is based upon a variety of factors like the location and size of the cavity, cost, cosmetic concerns, and patient history.

In Asia, Japan is the only country that regulates the use of dental amalgam. Most European countries like the UK, Italy, and France have unrestricted use of dental amalgam. Other countries like Sweden have regulated or banned the use of mercury as a component in dental amalgam due to environmental and health issues. The Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate has a website that contains a report on the investigation regarding the general ban of dental amalgam. Countries like Germany and Austria place restrictions on the use of dental amalgam. Except for pregnant women, children, and people with kidney problems, the general public can use dental amalgam. In Norway, the use of dental amalgam was made illegal on January 2008.

There are other types of dental fillings that you can use instead of dental amalgam if you think you may be allergic to its mercury component.

Resin composite is a tooth-colored material made out of resin compounds and powdered glass. When they were first introduced in dentistry, they were not strong enough and was limited to the front teeth. Today, resin composites are stronger and can be used for molars, although they need earlier replacement since they don't last as long as metal-based fillings.

Glass iomer cement is made out of glass and is a tooth-colored material like resin composite. However, it is not used for long-term fillings because glass iomer breaks easily.

Other metals like porcelain and gold are also used as fillings, especially for bridges, inlays, crowns, and veneers.

Dental amalgam or silver filling is a safe, durable, and affordable material that is used to restore teeth. It is made up of a mixture of metals like tin, silver, copper, and mercury, and is chemically bound into a safe and stable substance.

Dental amalgam has a fairly consistent safety record and cases have been reviewed extensively. Except for rare cases where patients are sensitive to mercury, the US Public Health Service says that there are no health reasons not to use dental amalgam. This supports the conclusions of the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Dental Research, which says that amalgam fillings are safe and effective. Besides this, people are more exposed to mercury from water, air and food than the mercury vapor in amalgam fillings.

Mercury as a single element is highly poisonous metal but in dental amalgam, it is made in an alloy composed of copper, tin, and silver. Very little mercury vapor is released from the dental amalgam. For most patients, there are no known harmful effects caused by the mercury in amalgam fillings. For those who have high exposure to mercury, such as people who work in industrial settings, the severity of mercury poisoning depends on the amount of exposure and the duration. However, in low level mercury exposure associated with dental amalgam, the relationship between the possible effects and the duration and level of exposure is still unknown. Dental amalgam is still the most affordable and most durable of all dental fillings, and further research is still being done to arrive at definite scientific answers.
About the Author
Jon Caldwell is a professional content manager. Much of his articles can be found at http://dentalamalgamguide.com
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