Used by dentists for more than a century now, dental amalgam is one of the most researched and tested restorative material used in the human mouth. Dental amalgam is a stable metal alloy consisting of mercury, silver, tin, copper and other metallic components. It is durable, easy to use, highly resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive compared to the other restorative materials. Hence it remains a valued treatment option for dentists and their patients.
Although dental amalgam continues to be a safe and widely used dental material, there has been a rising tide of concern raised regarding the mercury content. There are believers who are concerned about the toxic effects of mercury in amalgam and have attributed it to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, neurological degeneration, body rashes etc. It is of interest to note that the mercury in amalgam combines with other metals to render it stable and safe for use in dental fillings.
With regards to the safety of use of dental amalgam, the general consensus is that the major US and International scientific and health bodies, including the National Institute of Health, the US Public Health Service, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the WHO, are satisfied that
Dental amalgam is a safe, reliable and effective restorative material.
Advantages of amalgam fillings
1. Can withstand very high chewing loadings – useful for molar fillings
2. Not moisture sensitive – can be used for cavities that extend below the gum line
3. Biocompatible – only rare occurrence of allergic response
Disadvantages of amalgam fillings
1. Short term sensitivity to hot or cold after the restoration
2. Not tooth colored – may be an aesthetic concern as people dislike the show of black or silvery fillings in the mouth
3. More tooth structure removed when the dentist prepare the tooth to receive the material, compared to other restorative materials