Should your dentist remove and replace your old silver tooth fillings?
At Loock dental, we fill teeth with white filling which can be colour matched to your teeth and which is mercury-free. However, if you are over a certain age, or have been to a different dental practice, you might have existing silver fillings.
For more than 150 years, metal or silver filings, also known as amalgam fillings, were the go-to for filling holes in teeth, and many dental associations around the world, including in South Africa, do not recommend them being removed for health reasons and consider them completely safe. You will however, hear conflicting advice online as to whether they are safe or not and if it is advisable to have them removed.
As a dental patient, only you can decide what is best for your health in this regard, so we will attempt to provide a balanced view here to help you. If you are unsure, then please book an appointment to discuss this directly with your dentist.
Why did some countries ban silver fillings while others still use them?
Denmark, Sweden and Norway banned the use of amalgam fillings as long ago as 2008. This was because the fillings are made of a mixture of metals that usually includes around 50% mercury. Mercury is seen as both an environmental hazard and a potential health risk to humans. There is some evidence that mercury fumes can potentially be released into your body when silver fillings heat up.
The World Health Organisation has also decided that mercury is not generally safe in human medical use. However, they have recommended a gradual phasing out of its use rather than any immediate action on existing fillings. This is because untreated dental caries is still one of the world’s most common health issues and metal amalgam fillings are a cost-effective solution which is still considered safe by many countries. Also, removal and replacement of fillings containing mercury needs to be performed safely. For more information on how your dental health impacts your overall health, you can read this post.
Many countries’ dental associations, who make the rules and guidelines on dental health and ethical practice, have decided that the levels of mercury in silver fillings are so tiny as to not pose a health risk. These countries include the USA and South Africa. However, around the world, the replacement of a metal filling or giving a new metal filling is not recommended for pregnant women because of potential risk to their unborn baby.
Are there any other pros and cons to metal fillings?
Amalgam fillings have a slight disadvantage over modern white fillings because they are metal and expand and contract slightly with heat and cold.This can cause tiny cracks in the tooth and lead to more tooth decay. Also, the metal fillings are not bonded to the tooth the way the new white fillings are, which makes the chances of infection below the filling, or a loose filling falling out, greater.
Of course, from an aesthetic point of view, the white fillings and cerec crowns are also virtually impossible to distinguish from your natural teeth, while the metal ones are very much visible in your mouth.
The greatest advantage of the older amalgam silver fillings is that they are very inexpensive and long-lasting. So if you haven’t had any medical problems with your metal filling, then it is a matter of personal preference if you choose to replace your old metal fillings.
What would Loock Dental Practice dentists do about silver metal fillings?
While Loock Dental would not recommend removing a stable and functional metal filling, a patient can request to have one removed and replaced with a white filling, and your dentist can advise on your specific situation.
For new fillings, or repair of broken teeth, Loock Dental would use white fillings that bond with your teeth and match them in colour.