What is Amalgam?

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What is Amalgam?
Amalgam, also referred to as ‘silver fillings’, is the most commonly used material to fill cavities or tooth decay. This substance has been used in dentistry for more than 100 years. But concerns had been raised in relation to the usage of amalgam because of its mercury content. Though amalgam actually has silver, it also contains a mixture of other metals like tin, copper, indium, zinc, and mercury.

At present, amalgam is being used less often than in the past because of the development of tooth-colored restorative material. But since amalgam fillings are comparatively cheaper compared with other materials or alternatives, it is still being used by dentists. It is also stronger and can withstand pressure on the teeth from repeated chewing.

However, amalgam also has its disadvantages. One of them is the discoloration it can cause over time. And because an amalgam filling does not stick to the tooth, sometimes removal of a healthy part of a tooth is needed to allow enough space to hold this kind of filling. A cavity preparation has to be made by the dentist to assure retention of the filling. And for this reason, a dentist may remove additional tooth structure. There’s also the issue on the allergic reactions and effects of mercury in the body. Mercury is said to be very toxic if present in the body in high levels. Studies have indicated though that mercury from amalgam fillings is less than the amount most people are exposed to in their daily food intake or surroundings. Many researchers also believe that the use of amalgams in dentistry poses no significant threat to everyone’s health and well-being.

Dentists still have to take extra safety precautions though, since they are exposed to mercury almost daily. They have to avoid inhaling mercury vapors because exposure to mercury may create symptoms of toxicity such as headaches, memory loss, fatigue, irritability, and anxiety.

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