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Are amalgam dental fillings safe?

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    A blog looking at a recent study published online in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety that amalgam fillings may pose a risk to health.

    By Samantha Swaby

I recently read a report that amalgam fillings may pose a health risk due to them containing mercury. Amalgam fillings are widely used and many people will have one or more of these fillings in their mouths.

What are amalgam fillings?

Amalgam fillings often called silver fillings are made up of a mixture of metals including mercury, silver, tin, and copper. Amalgam has been used in dentistry for around 150 years and is an effective filing material. Generally amalgam fillings are used on back teeth as they are hard wearing.

The study

Despite mercury being used in amalgam fillings for such a long time, research was carried out by the University of Georgia, to see whether there were any adverse health effects. This is because mercury is a heavy metal which is known to be toxic at high levels.

The researchers said that about half of the compound of amalgam fillings contains mercury. This is of importance, as high levels of mercury causes effects primarily on the nervous system and can cause problems with hearing and speech.

Xiaozhong “John” Yu, Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia who was involved in the research said:

“If you have one dental filling, maybe it’s OK. But if you have more than eight dental fillings, the potential risk for adverse effect is higher”.

However, the study did state that it is unclear whether dental restorative materials significantly contribute to mercury levels.

Avoiding fillings

In order to avoid needing a filling in the first place, it is necessary to ensure that you reduce the risk of developing tooth decay. This can be done by:

– Reducing your intake of sugary snacks and drinks
– Brushing your teeth, twice a day for 2 minutes.
– Flossing
– Attending regular dental check-ups

Summary

Amalgam fillings have been used in dentistry for a long time and whilst there are often press releases of amalgam fillings being harmful, it is clear more research will need to be carried out in this area. If you have concerns about any amalgam fillings you may have, then it is recommended you attend a general dental practitioner who will be able to provide advice and any necessary treatment.

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