Two local dentists agree with FDA studies
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday released new and modified safety guidelines for mercury-based dental fillings. So-called dental amalgams, or fillings made with a mix of mercury and other metals, have been used since the 1800s and the debate over how to classify and treat mercury fillings has raged among dentists for years.
"While elemental mercury has been associated with adverse health effects at high exposures, the levels released by dental amalgam fillings are not high enough to cause harm in patients," the FDA said, citing an agency review of roughly 200 scientific studies.
Local dentists Mark Armfield and Robert Colt agree.
Augusta’s Dr. Armfield advises that the use of amalgams has a very successful history and explained that mercury can chemically bind to silver and tin at room temperature when mixed well together to form a solid metal that can withstand chewing forces for many years.
“If indeed silver fillings did decompose then people would notice the fillings disappearing and then they would have small holes in their teeth where the fillings used to be. Under normal chewing and eating the fillings would not decompose,” he continued, “It has been reported that heating the filling will release elemental mercury. This is true but it is not common to heat your fillings to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and survive very well, so for most people this should not be a concern.”
Dr. Armfield further stated that he personally believes composite (tooth colored) fillings are superior to amalgams for several reasons. Cosmetically they can be made to look like a tooth; they chemically bond the tooth together so it is nearly as strong as the tooth was prior to the decay. Composites set generally by light curing so when you leave the dental office your filling is up to 90 percent of its final strength.
He added, “Today nationwide most fillings are composite because of the materials’ superior attributes.”
Dr. Robert Colt with Augusta Family Dentistry explained that there has been continuous controversies over dental materials and lately it’s become a hot topic.
“At AFD we continue to research and strive to be on the forefront concerning materials...there are advantages to dental materials and recent statements in the news don’t change the fact that they’ve been used and utilized for a hundred years. There are benefits and drawbacks.”
Dr. Colt emphasized the most desirable and healthy situation is the natural tooth and any dental materials is a compromise. He agrees with the FDA’s conclusion that patients with dental amalgam fillings are not at risk for mercury-associated adverse health effects and there are no reasons to remove or replace at this time.
“Patients should understand that replacement of the fillings is strongly contra indicated,” he stated.
“We want to assure our patients that we’ve been aware of the controversy and research continues on the safest way to utilize all dental materials.”