Dental amalgams have been used by dentists for more than a century to fill cavities.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, this type of filling has maintained its popularity because it is durable, safe and inexpensive.
Commonly called silver fillings, dental amalgams are actually composed of mercury, silver, tin and copper. Approximately half of the weight of an amalgam is mercury.
Over the years, a considerable number of tests have been carried out to ensure that the mercury contained in these fillings does not pose a health risk to humans.
In July 2008, the American Dental Association published a statement that summarized the most significant findings about dental amalgams' safety, concluding that they have "established a record of safety and effectiveness."
There are alternatives to amalgam for filling cavities, such as porcelain, composite resins and cast gold restorations.
However, there are some recognized drawbacks to using these options. For example, gold and porcelain may take longer to create. Meanwhile, composite resins may wear out more quickly than silver fillings when used in larger cavities, according to the AGD.
© 2008 Brafton Inc.
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