Silver fillings are praised for their antimicrobial properties and what they do to prevent decay in teeth. Still, many people don’t know that these silver fillings are made of elemental silver rather than composite material. In light of the recent price increase, people want to know if they’re getting what they pay. Silver is a natural substance used as an antimicrobial agent since ancient times. It’s been used in water purification systems, food preservation, and other applications like this one, where it helps disinfect the mouth by killing off bacteria on teeth.
Silver Fillings Made of Silver
So is silver used in dental fillings? The short answer is yes, but the long answer requires more explanation. Silver fillings are made of elemental silver, which is pure elemental silver (99.9% silver). But that’s not all. A thin coating on dental fillings also contains an antibacterial agent of fluoride and zinc oxide. This mixture is what is sold as “silver” and truly makes up the bulk of the filling because it touches all surfaces of teeth within the mouth so that it can kill bacteria on contact.
Silver Fillings Potentially Contaminated
During manufacturing, silver fillings can become contaminated with lead, which poses a dangerous risk to patients. The lead could leach into the body and accumulate in the brain and kidneys. Not many cases of lead poisoning have been reported in the U.S., but it’s not something to take lightly, as some cases are particularly severe and irreversible.
The best way to evaluate your risk of getting a silver filling is to get your X-ray and MRI, which will tell you if there is any lead contamination on your tooth anywhere. If there is, you can get a silver filling changed out for a different material.
Anti-Aging Properties of Silver Fillings
Silver fillings are also beneficial to patients over 40 years old because they can help prevent tooth loss, which is common and natural as we age. Silver fillings stick to teeth with the help of surface tension in saliva and water vapor, much like a drop of water on a clean glass surface. The metal compound helps rebuild the minerals lost from the tooth’s enamel due to decay and time alone in the mouth.
Silver Fillings and Authenticity
You may have seen television commercials for “silver fillings,” but those are not authentic silver fillings. In the U.S., dental silver fillings can be purchased from dental supply stores or ordered from a dental laboratory and are only made of elemental silver, like the ones in your mouth. It is not valid in other countries, where silver fillings are more common. In some places, they’re made entirely from composite material with an added antibacterial agent. In the U.S., composite silver fillings are not FDA-approved, so there’s no way to know if they’re safe until something goes wrong.
Composite Silver Fillings and Dental Implants
A particular type of composite silver filling is called “healing adhesives,” which were initially developed for use in dental implants. They’re marketed as a way to repair the damage done to teeth during root canal therapy but have been investigated to help with tooth loss because they have a similar effect on teeth as silver fillings.
Silver fillings are helpful in your mouth for their anti-aging and antimicrobial properties. Still, patients need to be aware of the risk of lead contamination where the silver and other antibacterial fillings meet. And those with an increased risk for tooth loss should explore all options available.