Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?
The use of amalgam fillings that contain silver and mercury has been a subject of a lot of controversy over the years. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified amalgam dental fillings as a “Class II Device.” That essentially means that there are no restrictions from the government on the use of amalgam fillings.
However, in June 1998 the FDA acknowledged the potential risks of amalgam fillings due to toxic mercury exposure. Pregnant women and people with poor health are particularly vulnerable. The FDA has not placed any specific restrictions on the use of amalgam fillings, but it now advises patients to consult their doctor before going ahead with them.
The American Dental Association (ADA) continues with its recommendations that amalgam or silver fillings are perfectly safe. In view of the divergent opinions on the use of amalgam fillings, ultimately it is up to the patient to make a final decision on the choice of fillings. Any good dentist will educate the patient on the potential pros and cons of various types of fillings, so that the patient can make an informed decision.
The popularity of amalgam fillings has gone down in recent years because of the controversies associated with their safety. At the same time, superior quality composite fillings have become more popular because of their superior aesthetic value and because there are no health risks associated with them.
However, if fillings or crowns are required for the posterior teeth, the best available restorative material continues to be gold. Gold is the strongest, most resilient and most biocompatible material for dental restorations. It is relatively more expensive than silver or composite fillings, but the advantages of gold outweigh those of the other materials.
A gold filling or restoration can be expected to last for a very long time, and in many cases it may last a lifetime. Therefore, in the long run it may turn out to be the most cost effective filling material. Patients who are uncomfortable with the idea of mercury based fillings may opt for gold as a safe, healthy and superior alternative.
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