Dental Amalgam

Dental amalgam is a filling material that has been used by dentists for over 150 years. A mixture of metals that typically includes silver, copper and tin, dental amalgam fillings (commonly referred to as “silver fillings”) also contain mercury, which has raised safety concerns among patients from time to time.

In response to those concerns, the Canadian Food and Drug Administration, Canadian (CDA) and American Dental Association (ADA) and other organizations have conducted numerous studies over several decades and have repeatedly found that the small amount of mercury released during placement and removal of amalgam fillings does not cause adverse health effects.

Amalgam fillings remain a safe, cost-effective and durable choice when it comes to the restoration of decayed teeth.

Frequently Asked Questions about Silver Amalgam Fillings

Why is amalgam still used to fill teeth when composite materials are available?

While composite (or “tooth coloured”) fillings are more durable than ever thanks to advancements in technology, there are some cases where amalgam fillings may last longer. This is sometimes the case with teeth that are naturally subjected to extensive chewing force, such as molars with a heavy bite. Mercury is an important part of the amalgam mixture as it contains unique elements that allows it to be manipulated with ease during placement and then harden quickly after. In addition amalgam fillings are also less expensive than composites. Currently new ‘White’ filling materials like Zirconia are so strong that the use of silver fillings has been greatly reduced. 

A hand holding a model of a dental amalgam fillingWhat concerns are there with mercury and its effects on the body?

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal and one that we are exposed to in small amounts through water, air and food throughout our lives. Excessive exposure to mercury can negatively affect the brain and kidneys – however, it is important to understand that amalgam fillings do not cause dangerous levels of mercury exposure. Numerous scientific studies and thoughtful research have led the Canadian FDA to stand behind its position: amalgam fillings are a safe and effective restoration method for patients over 6 years of age.

What is the CDA’s position regarding the use of silver amalgam fillings?

A thorough summary of evidence ranging from 2004-2010 led both the CDA and ADA to reaffirm its position that amalgam is a less expensive and safe choice for patients.

When is it appropriate to use composite fillings?

Composite fillings are typically made of a resin and glass mixture, tinted to the colour of your tooth, and commonly referred to as “white” or “tooth-coloured” fillings. White fillings actually bond to the tooth whereas silver amalgam does not. This gives composite fillings a much stronger adhesion to the tooth. They also serve an important purpose for teeth that are visible when smiling or speaking, a benefit not afforded by silver fillings. Composite fillings look like your natural teeth. Silver fillings do not. And composite materials continue to benefit from accelerated technological advancements contributing to enhanced durability and aesthetics..

The bottom line?

Due to high aesthetic demands from patients and high durability of today’s composite materials, Dr. Simonsky does not place amalgam fillings in his office. The CDA and ADA have both concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe for tooth restoration.

If you still have concerns about amalgam fillings, please don’t hesitate to call our office! It is important to us that you fully understand all available options when it comes to your oral health.