In the past, metal fillings were the only option for dentists who needed to repair teeth damaged by decay. Amalgam materials were cheap, durable, and easy to use. While metal fillings restored tooth structure, they were not without drawbacks. Over time, these restorations could darken, taking away from a bright, white smile. Additionally, amalgam fillings can change shape and leak, creating other dental health issues.
At this point, most dentists use composite fillings. Not only do tooth-colored fillings produce attractive results, but they also strengthen remaining tooth structure. Because the composite materials actually bond to the tooth, they won’t crack or shift like amalgams. Composite fillings also require less removal of healthy tooth tissue, which allows your dentist to perform a more conservative repair.
Part of the issue with amalgam fillings comes from the mercury found in metal restorations. Exposure to mercury can result in memory problems, tremors, mood swings, and headaches as well as brain and kidney damage. Concerns occur because the metal fillings can allow mercury to leach into your mouth and increase your risk of side effects. In some cases, amalgam filling materials contain up to 50 percent mercury.
If you are worried about the health risks associated with metal fillings, talk with your dentist. To ensure your safety, your doctor can check your older restorations and make sure they are in good condition. Some patients decide to replace any metal fillings with composite restorations as a precaution. Fillings that have started leaking should definitely be removed.