Why do Dentists Use Silver (Amalgam) Fillings?

Silver amalgam fillings have been around for a very long time. How long?   They were used in China over 1000 years ago, and in Germany in the 1500s. They made it to America and were used in the 1840s, but banned for a short period. In the late 1850s they were recommended by the newly formed American Dental Association.

 Advantages of Amalgam Fillings

So, why do dentists still like silver fillings? They’re the cheapest material that can be used. When placed in the mouth they adapt well to the walls of the cavity preparation and can be easily manipulated for proper shaping for a good bite and contact with the neighboring teeth. And the amalgam fillings seem to last a long time before needing replacement, unless the patient is prone to decay and the tooth around it decays.

Disadvantages of Amalgam Fillings

There are some down sides. The most obvious is that it looks bad: who would want a silver filling on a front tooth?   In past years, other choices were not very good. As late as the 1960s front teeth were filled with a cement that would wash out every 1-2 years before having to be replaced. How inconvenient!

Another down side that I have observed is that large fillings tend to crack after they have been the the mouth for a while, and the surrounding tooth of a filling may break off requiring a crown. It is debatable whether or not the new white fillings would fare any better.

The current day objection is that amalgam fillings are 50% mercury, which some claim is damaging for the patient. For one thing, there is a small amount of leakage of mercury into the mouth which can then travel elsewhere. The American Dental Association claims that this is safe. If you see an alternative medicine doctor they would tend to disagree. There are some documented cases of a neuromuscular problems, believed to have come from the high levels of mercury. When the fillings are taken out and mercury removed from the bloodstream via chelation, the patient may recover from the ill-effects of the mercury.

By the way, it is no longer legal to use amalgam in Scandinavia because of the perceived toxic effect on the human body, plus it is a potential environmental hazard.

The Amalgam Debate

So, amalgams have been used in the United States for a very long time and seem to not have any effect on most patients, just as most patients are not sensitive to penicillin.   Many dentists still favor the material. I personally haven’t used it in 20 years because of my awareness and agreement with alternative medicine. But, the debate will continue until definitive results are published and the attorneys for all parties can settle the issue.