Dental Amalgam is a commonly used dental filling that has been used for over 150 years. It is a mixture of mercury with at least one other metal. Amalgam has many advantages over other restorative material, such as low cost, strength, durability, and bacteriostatic effects.
Amalgam is used in dentistry for a number of reasons. It is relatively easy to use and manipulate during placement; it remains soft for a short time so it can be packed to fill any irregular volume, and then forms a hard compound. Amalgam possesses greater longevity than other direct restorative materials, such as composite. On average, most amalgam restorations serve for 10 to 12 years, whereas resin-based composites serve for about half that time.
ADA and FDA recommendations for fillings
Dental amalgam has a 150-year proven track record of as one of the safest, most durable and least expensive materials used to a fill a cavity. Ongoing scientific studies conducted over the past 100 years continue to show that amalgam is not harmful.
Much of the concern over the safety of amalgams arises from the use of mercury as a bonding agent. But when mercury is combined with other materials in dental amalgam, its chemical nature changes, rendering it harmless. The amount of mercury released in the mouth under the pressure of chewing and grinding is extremely small and no cause for alarm. In fact, it is less than what patients are exposed to in food, air and water, and less than what gets released in patients who opt to have an existing amalgam filling removed.
The American Dental Association (ADA) maintains that dental amalgam remains a safe, affordable and durable cavity filling choice for dental patients. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend the removal of amalgam fillings from patients who have them because this could cause more harm to the tooth structure and pose other health risks to the patient.
Deciding which type of filling to use is best made by the patient and dentist, taking into account the size and location of the cavity, patient history, cosmetic concerns and cost. Ask your dentist to discuss all of the choices available for dental fillings and help you decide which alternative is right for you.
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs has concluded that both amalgam and composite materials are considered safe and effective for tooth restoration.