Are Silver Fillings Safe?

Hi, I’m Dr. Arthur Yam of Herald Square Dental in Midtown Manhattan.

A question I am often asked is “Are silver fillings safe?”

People are becoming more and more careful about what they put into their bodies, so this is a great question!

Silver fillings are made up of an amalgam of metals including silver, mercury, tin and copper. There is a lot of controversy over whether the mercury component is harmful or not.

Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in the environment. We are exposed to it through air, drinking water, soil and food. Very low levels don’t cause any health issues but at higher levels it acts as a neurotoxin.

We used to believe that the mercury in the fillings was inert and that there was no leakage, but it has been found that very small amounts of mercury do in fact get released as vapors.

Studies have shown that the amount of mercury people are exposed to from their silver fillings is extremely low. In fact, it is less than the amount that we are exposed to on a daily basis from the environment or from the food we eat. The low level of mercury exposure from silver fillings is completely safe.

Scientific evidence confirms that silver fillings do not cause health issues.

That being said, at Herald Square Dental, we almost never use silver fillings any more. Almost all of the fillings we place are tooth colored composite fillings.

The current generation of composite, or tooth colored fillings are just as strong as silver fillings and aesthetically, the results are night and day.

So even though silver fillings are perfectly safe, composite fillings are the way to go moving forward.

Another common question I am often asked is, “should I remove my silver fillings and replace them with white ones?”

My advice is, if a silver filling is intact and the tooth is healthy, you should leave it alone.

When you remove a filling you have to remove some natural tooth structure with it, leaving less tooth structure to hold a new filling and to protect the nerve.

Placing a new filling can also cause sensitivity.

So my advice is – if a tooth is healthy, leave it alone.

However, if the filling is compromised or there is a new cavity in the tooth then yes, you should definitely replace the old filling.

What if existing silver fillings bother you aesthetically? Silver fillings are dark and sometimes especially when they are on lower teeth, they are visible when you open your mouth to eat or speak.

If having silver fillings makes you self-conscious and affects your confidence, then that is another good reason to replace them.

So the 2 good reasons for replacing a silver filling are: 1) for aesthetics and 2) to fix a broken or decayed old filling or tooth.

I hope I’ve addressed some of your dental concerns today!
This is Dr. Arthur Yam. Keep Smiling!