Should You Have Your Old Metal Fillings Replaced?
If you’ve been visiting your dentist regularly, your older fillings should still be in good order because your dentist would have checked them at every appointment. However, there have been some concerns recently about toxic mercury, which is a component of older fillings, and whether you should have your fillings replaced with newer and safer materials such as composite resin. Small amounts of mercury are harmless; it’s only when we’re continually exposed to large amounts that problems can occur.
Let’s take a look at what’s in your old fillings and whether they’re still safe.
Older fillings, known as amalgam fillings, have been used for over 150 years and are still being used today. They’re made from a blend of metals including silver, copper, zinc, tin and mercury, and it’s the mercury content that’s been thought to pose a possible health risk.
Concerns About Toxic Mercury
Mercury was added to the metal combination because it makes the mixture pliable and easy to press into the cavity, and once it hardens, the filling becomes very durable and long-lasting. Exposure to large amounts of mercury can cause debilitating symptoms and mercury poisoning, but when amalgam fillings were first developed, it was thought that once the filling was placed in the tooth no mercury was released. It’s since been found that small amounts of mercury vapour are released as the fillings wears down. However, the amounts are smaller than most people are exposed to in daily life so they are considered safe.
Who Should Consider Having Fillings Replaced?
As long as your old amalgam fillings are maintained in good order and they’re still doing the job, there’s no reason to go to the trouble and expense of having them replaced with more modern materials. There are, however, some instances in which replacement is a better option.
Anyone who has had a reaction to amalgam fillings should consider using an alternative such as resin. Pregnant women should limit their exposure to heavy metals such as mercury, and should also try to avoid excess dental treatments as a precaution. Existing amalgam fillings should be checked by a dentist. Also, anyone who is exposed to more mercury than usual through their job or lifestyle should see their dentist about a possible replacement.
Many modern fillings use a tooth-coloured composite resin which blends with your existing teeth. Composite fillings are slightly more expensive and may not be suitable for all situations. Amalgam fillings are best for filling large areas in the back teeth and can withstand pressure from chewing better than other types of fillings. If you have older amalgam fillings and have any concerns about them, get professional advice from your dentist.
Dental Care – West Auckland
At Titirangi Dental, we provide caring, professional dental services for the whole family using the latest in dental equipment and technology. We’re dedicated to helping you maintain and improve your smile with a full range of general and cosmetic dentistry.