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Amalgam fillings and their replacement in dentistry

In dentistry, the topic of amalgam fillings and their alternatives is a frequently discussed concern. Many people who have already had caries treatment are familiar with the term "amalgam fillings". However, there are other, less well-known methods of filling teeth and preserving tooth structure. This blogpost aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the different options and their advantages and disadvantages.

Andrea Seraina Author
Andrea Seraina
Dental Content Specialist
03.10.20237 min. reading time
alpine white, Amalgamfüllungen

What are amalgam fillings?

Amalgam fillings are a widely used method in dentistry to treat tooth decay. This type of dental filling is made of an alloy containing mercury and other metals such as silver, tin and copper. In many dental practices, amalgam is valued for its long durability and ease of use in drilling out cavities and filling teeth.

However, there are growing concerns about the health effects of amalgam fillings. In particular, mercury exposure is the focus of discussion. Mercury is a heavy metal that can be released in small amounts from amalgam fillings. This release can take the form of mercury vapours or amalgam particles, which then enter the oral cavity.

The concerns are particularly relevant for certain populations, such as breastfeeding mothers. Mercury can pass into breast milk, posing a risk to the infant. In addition, people with pre-existing amalgam exposure or sensitive gums may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of amalgam.

Drilling out an old amalgam filling can also be problematic, as it can release amalgam particles and mercury vapours. It is therefore important that dental practices take special safety measures to minimise exposure to mercury.

Because of these concerns, more and more people are looking for alternatives to amalgam fillings. Plastic fillings, also known as composite fillings, are one such option. They do not contain heavy metals and are more aesthetically pleasing as they can mimic the natural tooth colour.

Why remove amalgam fillings?

The removal of amalgam fillings is a topic that is becoming increasingly important in dentistry. Many dental practices and medical professionals recommend the removal of amalgam fillings to reduce mercury exposure in the body. But why is this so?

As described earlier, mercury is a toxic heavy metal found in amalgam fillings. Some scientific studies have shown that toxic mercury can be released from the fillings in the form of mercury vapours. These vapours can not only remain in the mouth, but also enter the gastrointestinal tract, potentially causing a range of health problems. The risks range from neurological disorders to digestive problems and can be serious, especially with long-term exposure.

In this context, the role of the dental office is crucial. Qualified dentists use specialised techniques and equipment for the safe removal of amalgam fillings. These techniques minimise the release of toxic mercury during the removal process, thus reducing the risk of mercury exposure. Methods used include the use of cofferdams, special suction systems and other protective measures aimed at minimising exposure to mercury vapours and particles.

It is also important to take further steps to reduce mercury exposure after the removal of the amalgam filling. Some dental practices offer mercury detoxification consultations and treatments to ensure that all traces of the heavy metal are removed from the body.

Overall, the decision to remove amalgam fillings should be made in close consultation with a qualified dental practice. The risks and benefits should be carefully weighed and individually assessed to make the best decision for one's health.

Precautions for amalgam removal

  1. Rubber dam: A rubber dam is a protective shield that isolates the tooth being treated to prevent the spread of amalgam particles.
  2. Clean-up suction and extraction: These devices extract mercury vapours and particles to prevent contamination.
  3. Biological dentistry: Some dental practices in Zurich and throughout Switzerland offer biological methods for amalgam remediation and detoxification.

Alternatives to amalgam

The discussion about amalgam fillings and the associated health concerns has led to a growing interest in alternative filling materials in recent years. Fortunately, modern dentistry offers a range of alternatives that are both aesthetically pleasing and harmless to health. Some of these alternatives are presented in detail below.

Composite fillings

Composite is a mixture of plastic and glass and is one of the most popular alternatives to amalgam fillings. One of the main advantages of composite fillings is their aesthetic appearance; they can be colour-matched to natural teeth and are therefore less noticeable than amalgam fillings. They also do not contain heavy metals and are therefore less of a concern from a health perspective. However, they can be less durable than amalgam and are often more expensive.

Inlays and ceramic fillings

Inlays offer another interesting alternative. These fillings are made in the dental laboratory and then placed in the prepared tooth. They are particularly suitable for larger fillings and offer an excellent fit. Ceramic fillings are a special form of inlay made from ceramic material. They are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also very durable and resistant to abrasion.

Dentures and dental implants

In cases where decay has progressed to the point where a filling is no longer sufficient, dentures or dental implants may be considered. Dentures refer to artificial teeth that are placed in place of natural teeth, while dental implants are anchored directly into the jawbone and serve as a base for the dentures. Both options offer a permanent and aesthetically pleasing solution for replacing missing or severely damaged teeth.

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Who should avoid amalgam?

Breastfeeding mothers

For breastfeeding mothers, avoiding amalgam fillings is a particular concern. Mercury, a component of amalgam, can pass into breast milk, posing a potential risk to the infant. Exposure to mercury at such a young age could have long-term health effects, including neurological problems. Therefore, breastfeeding mothers are often advised to avoid amalgam fillings and instead use mercury-free alternatives.

People with heavy metal exposure

People who already have heavy metal exposure should also be cautious about using amalgam. A naturopath or other qualified health care provider can perform tests to determine the level of heavy metal exposure in the body. If exposure is confirmed, it is advisable to avoid amalgam fillings and opt for other filling materials that do not contain heavy metals.

Common problems after amalgam removal

Teeth grinding and jawbone problems

After the removal of amalgam fillings, some people report teeth grinding and jawbone problems. This could be partly due to changes in tooth structure and biting behaviour that may occur after amalgam removal. In such cases, it is important to consult a dentist for a thorough examination and adjustment of the bite if necessary. In some cases, specialised physiotherapy for the jaw area may also be necessary.

Gum problems

The removal of amalgam fillings can also cause sensitivity in the gums and other gum problems. This may be due to exposure of the tooth substance during the removal process. Sensitive gums can be painful and increase the risk of gum disease. If such problems occur, it is advisable to consult a dentist for a thorough examination and treatment. In some cases, special mouthwashes or toothpastes can help relieve symptoms.

Closing words

The decision to remove amalgam fillings should not be taken lightly. It is important to take all precautions and seek advice from a qualified dentist. There are many dental practices in Switzerland that specialise in safe amalgam removal and biological dentistry.

Remember, your teeth are an important part of your health. Make sure you get the best dental treatment that suits your needs.

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