Risks of Amalgam Fillings

Many of us know that there are potential risks with the use of amalgam fillings, but what are those risks. Are these risks anything you should be concerned about? Here we’ll cover all the details. Our article at a glance will cover the following topics:

  • What are the risks of Amalgam, or silver, fillings?
  • Can Mercury really leak from silver fillings?
  • Why do dentists use Amalgam so often?
  • What are Amalgam alternatives?

Are There Risks of Amalgams Fillings?

Dental amalgams are made up of a metal alloy of silver, tin, and copper. Other elements like zinc, palladium, and mercury are also found in amalgam. Even though these elements have been shown to be harmful to humans in certain doses, amalgam fillings are still commonly used in modern dentistry. Before superior composite dental materials were available, amalgam was the most durable option available for fillings.

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Scientific facts about dental amalgams:

Emerging research has shown that the mercury previously believed to be safe for dental amalgams can emit vapors at temperatures less than that of a healthy human body. At certain blood concentrations, these mercury vapors can be absorbed into the body and contribute to health problems. Science of the Total Environment (September 2011, Vol. 409:20, pp. 4257-4268)

Can Mercury Leak from Amalgam (silver) fillings?

Research has shown that mercury vapors are released at temperatures even lower than that of a human body. This suggests that there is a constant release of mercury vapor from amalgam fillings throughout a patient’s life. The mercury can be absorbed into the bloodstream and at certain blood, concentrations can negatively affect various organ systems in the body. The FDA’s current acceptable level of daily mercury intake is 0.4 micrograms per kg of body weight. We believe that over time the FDA will change those guidelines but for now, patients must decide if amalgam fillings are safe for themselves.

Why Do Dentists Use Dental Amalgam So Widely?

Dental amalgam is still widely used all over the world partly due to the fact that it is an inexpensive material and that it does not take as much skill to place this type of restoration as a composite filling.

What Are the Risks of Amalgam Fillings?

Risks of Amalgam Fillings:
Mercury Vapor

Research shows that the release of mercury vapor is likely with amalgam fillings. The ingestion of mercury is linked to many health conditions. Some of those conditions are related to oral health. This is one reason many dentists, including our team at Northstar Dental, avoids using amalgam.

silver fillings dental lincoln ne risks of amalgam

Risks of Amalgam Fillings:
Some Patients Have Metal Sensitivity

Because dental amalgam is comprised of various metals, it may create a chronic source of metal sensitivity.

risks of amalgam fillings

Risks of Amalgam Fillings:
Developing cavities under them

Amalgams are not bonded to the tooth, instead, they are held in place by the shape of the preparation. The tooth is undercut, making the base of the tooth preparation wider than the top. This gives the filling retention so that it doesn’t fall out. Because there is no bond, the edges of the filling corrode over time due to chewing forces, acids from foods and temperature changes in the mouth. This can allow a space between the tooth and filling where bacteria can begin breaking down the tooth and starting another cavity around the edge of the filling. White fillings offer a better seal between the tooth and filling, reducing the incidence of leaking margins.

Risks of Amalgam Fillings:
Loss of Tooth Structure

Amalgams require more removal of healthy tooth structure for placement. As mentioned above, amalgams require the tooth to be prepared in an undercut shape in order to hold them in place. The removal of more tooth structure can weaken the remaining tooth structure, leading to cracks and fractures over time.  Dental amalgam also expands and contracts at a different rate than tooth structure every time the tooth is exposed to hot and cold temperatures or strong chewing forces. This allows the filling to act as a wedge, leading to cracks and fractures.

If you have been considering replacing some of your old amalgam fillings, we would be happy to discuss your treatment options and help you decide if removing them is right for you. We strive to offer you the most exceptional care possible. Because of this, we exclusively use composite materials for fillings in our practice. For additional information, you can call Nebraska Family Dentistry at any of our locations to find out about fillings or any other services we offer. You can also follow the link below to learn more about the risks of amalgam fillings.

risks of amalgam fillings , metal free fillings

Our Alternative: White, Metal-Free Fillings

Most dentists in the USA have switched to metal-free fillings. Here are some benefits to using composite materials:


Metal-free fillings are made of a white composite material. White fillings look natural and blend well with your natural teeth.  The white composite material simply looks like the enamel surface of a tooth. Metal-free fillings blend perfectly with the rest of the smile. Using white fillings greatly improves the appearance of teeth.

Healthier: Amalgam Fillings vs Composite Fillings

Composites do not contain heavy metals that may be absorbed into your body. They are also bonded to the tooth, helping to hold the tooth together and are less likely to fracture than amalgams.

Quick and Easy

Although placing composite fillings requires more skill than placing amalgams, less tooth structure is removed for placement and patients can eat and drink immediately after treatment. We are very skilled at placing white fillings in our office and will make the process very easy for you.

The Cost of Fillings

Like many dental procedures, it can be difficult to estimate the cost of a filling. However, we’re happy to take a look at your teeth and give you the most accurate estimate possible.

Lincoln Dental Plans

If you don’t have insurance or don’t know if you can afford a filling, it’s okay! We proudly partner with Lincoln Dental Plans. Lincoln Dental Plans is a dental discount plan that entitles members to numerous discounted services. To learn more about Lincoln Dental Plans, click the link above, to their website.

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The information on this page was written by Dr. Michael Burbach.

This gentle Lincoln, NE dentists says: “I am committed to providing my patients with the ultimate in dental health care, by using the latest techniques and equipment that will allow comfort during dental procedures. My team and I at Northstar Dental are dedicated to providing you with a comfortable and safe environment for both adults and children. My goal as a dentist is to provide you and your family with high quality and gentle dental care so you can have a healthy mouth for a healthy life.”

You can schedule with this Lincoln, NE dentist, or his partners, online 24/7 at his North Lincoln Location of Nebraska Family Dentistry. This “dentist near me” serves the local communities close to Northstar Dental in Waverly, Davey, Raymond, Garland, Ceresco, Greenwood, and Malcom.

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