Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dental Amalgam

One material used to accomplish fillings on teeth is metal amalgam. The ingredients of dental amalgam include silver, tin and mercury, with zinc and copper often added to increase properties such as strength. Today's dental patient often prefers tooth-colored composite resin fillings simply because of their cosmetic appearance.

I had a patient earlier this week who had a severely compromised molar tooth with decay extending around and below the gumline. She asked me what restorative material I would use if this was my tooth. I said because of the extent and location of the decay, I would want a silver amalgam filling. She said 'No way! Give me the tooth-colored filling!' Her reasoning wasn't because of the appearance of the different fillings. Instead, her concern ultimately was the mercury content of the silver fillings.

An excellent article was written by the Vice President of the American Student Dental Association, Andrew Read-Fuller for the February 2011 issue of ASDA News, describing the continued debate over Dental Amalgam. He notes that in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration gave a satement confirming, 'clinical studies have not established a causal link between dental amalgam and adverse health effects in adults and children aged 6 or older.' In 2010, an FDA dental products panel discussed dental amalgam, and heard statements from researchers such as Dr. Michael Martin who evaluated amalgam's health effects on children. The conclusion of his study was the children showed no signs of mercury toxicity, and furthermore, amalgam should still remain a clinical option, as it has greater longevity than tooth colored composite fillings.

In December 2010, Andrew Read-Fuller testified to an FDA advisory committee on the safety of mercury amalgam dental fillings concluding 'there is no scientific data that amalgam fillings cause the problems some attribute to them, and said that, as a future dentist, he would use amalgam fillings on any of his patients as well as himself.'

I encourage my patients to read the peer-reviewed literature concerning this or any other dental topic before undergoing any procedure.


  1. HI Dr Alexander,
    Just want to acknowledge U that I'm using the amalgam photo in my teaching material. Thank you.

  2. To prepare dental amalgams, a powdered alloy consisting mainly of silver
    and tin is mixed with liquid mercury. The powder may be produced either by
    lathe cutting or by milling a cast ingot of the silver-tin alloy. The resulting
    particles are irregular in shape.

    The Kitchener Dentist