Twenty years from now, will amalgam still be used for dental fillings? It’s hard to say, given the stigma that seems to surround its use today.
Amalgam is an alloy that is typically half mercury and half silver, copper and other trace metals. Its use as a restorative dental filler gained enormous popularity in the 1800s, and, until very recently, it was the filler of choice due to its strength, durability and low cost in comparison to other fillers, including composite materials.
The main ongoing concern about amalgam is its high concentration of elemental mercury. Numerous scientific studies have suggested connections between high levels of mercury and adverse health effects such as organ damage or neurological disorders. Because of health and environmental risks, Norway, Sweden and Denmark banned the use of amalgam fillings in 2008.
However, U.S. oversight agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the American Dental Association continue to support amalgam, saying mercury levels in the dental restorative are too low to pose a health risk. This 2009 FDA ruling followed an exhaustive review of all scientific studies.
Safety issues aside, the demise of amalgam may still become a reality in the not too distant future. Scientists are constantly developing new dental fillers using composite materials that are stronger, longer lasting and more natural looking. In fact, aesthetics is probably the number one reason patients opt for composite fillers.
So, the answer to the question of whether amalgam will even be around in 20 or 30 years is, probably not. If there is a cheaper, more durable alternative that poses even less of a health risk, then that alternative will always prevail. Hands down.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Lawrence Rosenman, Springfield Lorton Dental Group
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