There are two types of dental fillings silver (aka amalgam) and tooth-colored (aka composite or resin). Traditional silver fillings are known for containing an alloy, a mixture of metals including mercury. Silver fillings have been used for decades and they actually have many advantages over tooth-colored fillings.
Mercury can be harmful in large amounts as a chemical in the environment. But if you have silver fillings in your mouth, don’t freak out because when mercury is combined with other metals as in an alloy like a filling in your mouth, it is extremely safe. Nowadays more attractive and less invasive materials are making silver fillings less common. But they still are relevant in some dental scenarios. For one they can be placed when the oral environment is wet and not completely dry.
So for someone who has heavy saliva flow, a back tooth that is difficult to reach, or isolate, or a young kid who is extra squirmy, all of these dental situations, actually render silver fillings a better choice than tooth-colored fillings. In the past, silver fillings used to be much cheaper than tooth-colored fillings. But now the cost of tooth-colored restorations has come down significantly. So that’s really not a huge thing anymore.
Now let’s say you have an old silver filling that is starting to leak, pull away from your tooth, or is cracked. That’s the only time that there is technically a potential risk of mercury exposure. But again it’s nothing to worry about. Because it’s such a low amount unless you are specifically allergic to mercury, or you have a neurological disorder or kidney problems. Those are the three highest risk groups for mercury exposure. But again this is only if your old silver filling is leaking. It’s fine if it’s intact in your mouth.
How can you tell if it’s intact?
What you need to do is visit your dental office routinely for them to monitor and make sure your silver fillings look stable both clinically and radiographically. But really regardless of whether you have a silver filling or a tooth-colored filling, all fillings that are damaged need to be replaced. Because all concerns about mercury aside a damaged filling run the risk of your tooth cracking apart around it, then requiring a crown or even a root canal. So no matter what type of filling you have, if it’s intact great, if it’s damaged then you have to replace it.
If you’re someone who is still like no way I want these silver fillings out of my mouth. They aren’t damaged or leaky or anything, I just don’t like the idea of them in my mouth. According to the FDA removing silver fillings that are already in your mouth is not always advised. The risk of possible mercury exposure even though so small is still at its highest when you’re physically placing or removing the fillings because of all the vapors that are created during the process. So really changing them out is what will put you at a higher risk of mark your exposure opposed to just leaving them where they are.
We can say if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. If it’s not leaky or damaged just leave it there. You don’t have to run to your dentist office right now to get all of your silver fillings removed. Both dental experts and the FDA do agree that silver fillings are safe and best to be kept where they are until they need to be replaced for structural reasons. If you know your filling is outdated and it seems like it will break down soon, of course, discuss it personally with your dentist as everyone’s circumstances are unique and treatment plans will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Don’t freak out, it’s no big deal either way. Hope this helped you.