Are Amalgam Fillings Safe?

Amalgam fillings, also known as ‘silver fillings’, have been used for more than one hundred years to fill cavities resulting from tooth decay. Amalgam filling is prepared mixing various metals together (powdered alloy composed of silver, copper, tin and liquid mercury).

The procedure of amalgam filling is simple. The dentist first removes the decay by drilling the tooth and shapes up the tooth cavity for proper placement of the amalgam filling. Then, the dentist makes amalgam putty, mixing up the powdered alloy and liquid mercury together. This softened putty is then placed in the already-prepared tooth cavity, where it hardens into a solid tooth filling.

Potential Risks

Amalgam filling contains mercury as its primary element. Mercury vapor exposure has been linked to adverse effects on the kidneys and brains as amalgam fillings release a low level of mercury vapor which can be inhaled.

FDA has cross-examined the best available scientific evidence before confirming that the low level of mercury vapor associated with amalgam fillings is safe for adults as well as children aged six and above. The amount of mercury is far below the levels linked with adverse health effects.  Clinical studies have also confirmed that amalgam fillings are safe and have no direct link to any type of health problem. However, a few clinical studies talk about the potential effects of this dental filling on children under the age of six, including breastfed infants and pregnant women and their developing fetuses. However, FDA does not have any supportive data to confirm that infants are at risk of adverse side effects from the breast milk of nursing mothers having dental amalgam fillings.

Some individuals have a sensitivity or allergy to mercury or other components of this dental filling such as tin, copper or silver.  These individuals may develop oral lesions and other reactions. If you are one such person having allergies to any of these substances, you should avoid amalgam fillings and discuss the other available treatment options with your dentist.

The bottom line is that dental amalgam fillings are safe and have no side effects. There is no evidence that has confirmed a correlation between amalgam fillings and increased risk of illnesses. An amalgam filling is inexpensive and long-lasting. If you experience some problems, talk with your dentist about a replacement.