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Are dental fillings really toxic?

In July 2018, the European Union will ban the use of dental amalgam, or silver fillings, for children and pregnant women. This filling material has been used for over 150 years, so the shift away from this major dental product spells the end of an era in modern dentistry.

The ban is a part of the EU Mercury Regulation, which focuses on filling gaps in legislation to becomes compliant with The Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Convention is a global treaty dedicated to phasing out toxic substances such as mercury to protect human wellbeing and the environment. Dental amalgam is made with mercury – but countless studies have failed to correlate its use with any negative health outcomes.

So, are dental filings really toxic? And are there other alternatives?

If you need fillings, it pays to be reassured that the materials are perfectly safe.If you need fillings, it pays to be reassured that the materials are perfectly safe.

Understanding dental amalgam

The New Zealand Dental Association has found that dental amalgam is perfectly safe.

Dental amalgam is a compound of a number of heavy metals, often including silver, tin, and copper. Mercury is added to an alloy powder to create a pliable material that can be mixed and pressed into the tooth. This compound then hardens quickly to be able to withstand the forces of biting and chewing.

So, is it safe? The New Zealand Dental Association has found through its own review of existing literature that dental amalgam is actually perfectly safe. Studies have shown that the amounts of mercury released by dental amalgam throughout the life of a filling are inconsequential to the patient's wellbeing. In very few cases, localised changes to the mucous membrane have been attributed to all dental filling materials, including amalgam.

Despite the mounting evidence that amalgam is safe, caution is still advised for pregnant women. Elective dental procedures, including the placement or removal of dental fillings, regardless of material, should be avoided if you're expecting.

Are there alternatives to dental amalgam?

Though amalgam is perfectly safe, if you have reservations or would prefer a less noticeable material, you have several options

Dental composite is a plastic material designed to imitate the colour of natural teeth. A dentist will usually place composite into the tooth cavity in layers, and then harden it using a powerful light. This option can be used for chewing immediately after installation.

Porcelain or gold can be used for inlays or onlays. With inlays, a filling is specifically fitted to the cavity and bonded into place. Meanwhile, an onlay is the same, except it extends to replace a cusp or chewing surface of the tooth.

Dental sealants are an ideal preventative measure for children whose permanent teeth have all fully erupted. These tooth-coloured plastic films coat hard-to-clean fissures and prevent harmful tartar build-up.

To discuss comfortable filling options, or for a standard check-up, book an appointment with City Dentists online or call 04 978 4964.