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What is dental amalgam? Amalgam is one of the oldest and most widely used restorations for cavity preparations. Amalgam is comprised of mercury, silver, tin, copper and zinc. People generally recognize dental amalgam as silver fillings.

Mercury in dental amalgam is regarded to be safe. When mercury is combined with other materials in dental amalgam, its chemical nature changes, so it is essentially harmless. However, there is a controversy on this subject matter.Due to the presence of mercury (a known human toxin) in amalgam, this controversy surrounding amalgam has raged for decades within the dental profession. The reality that a small percentage of the population may show a hyper-sensitivity to amalgam cannot be denied. However, since many heavy metals exist in this compound, a patient's specific hypersensitivity may be due to a metal other than mercury. For those patients who demonstrate any heavy metal sensitivity, it is recommended that amalgam not be used as a substitute for any damaged or decayed portions of their teeth.

Modern amalgams that come in a capsule demonstrate little or no "free mercury" (mercury that is not bound or chemically tied-up with other amalgamating metals). When properly placed within the functional limits of the material, these advanced amalgams are durable, dimensionally stable, decay resistant and cost effective. Also, pre-capsulated amalgam combined with appropriate adhesive agents virtually eliminates the problems of weakened teeth and micro leakage commonly associated with most restorative materials. For these reasons the American Dental Association continues to list the pre-capsulated dental amalgams as an approved dental restorative material.

Dental professionals generally agree that amalgam, in the long-term, has been successful. Further, it is considered unethical for dentists to suggest that amalgam restorations be removed and replaced with alternative materials to alleviate obscure or ill-defined patient symptoms or complaints. Dental insurance carriers will routinely deny benefits for the replacement of amalgam restorations unless these restorations are failing or the lack of a more suitable restoration will result in a further compromise in the dental health of the patient.

There are other types of filling materials apart from amalgam such as cast gold restorations, porcelain, and composite resins. Most of which give you a more cosmetic appearance. Amalgam is still regarded to be a safe, durable and the least expensive material to fill a cavity.