The dangers of metal fillings

Before the safety of modern-day dental fillings, people used to have metal fillings, which posed some serious health risks. Modern fillings are made from composite materials and are white and completely safe to use, but metal fillings are an amalgam, which means they are a combination of metals and usually contain over 50% mercury which, when consumed, is very toxic to humans – even in trace amounts. 

Dental amalgam is a mixture of liquid mercury and metal alloy. It was used to fill cavities in the teeth. The most popular blend was low-copper amalgam, which usually consists of mercury, silver, tin, zinc and other trace metals.


Mercury, a naturally occurring mineral, has been linked to mercury poisoning and mental health conditions.  Wadia Dental Group explains that metal fillings could release toxic chemicals into the blood, causing a whole list of side effects for patients who have been given metal fillings. These fillings seem harmless at first, but studies have shown that amalgam fillings cause more tooth damage than new, composite resin fillings.

Composite fillings – also referred to as white or tooth-coloured fillings – are rapidly becoming the restoration of choice for both patients and dentists.

When patients have been exposed to mercury, they are at risk of physical ailments, as well as certain mental illnesses. Patients have experienced speech impairment, muscle weakness to the point of paralysis, an inability to see or hear and a lack of co-ordination.

High levels of mercury exposure can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and the immune system, says Medicine Net.  Being exposed to high levels of mercury in the bloodstream may harm the developing nervous system of unborn babies and young children. This could affect the child’s ability to think and learn.

People who are diagnosed with acute elemental (metallic) mercury poisoning are usually suffering from the mental health effects of overexposure to mercury. 

Symptoms include, but are not limited to, emotional and mood changes, headaches, tremors, changes in nerve responses and performance deficits on tests of cognitive function. Many have reported feeling depressed, with no obvious triggers.

Broken Teeth

Besides the mental and physical health risks of having metal fillings, there is also evidence that the hard metal used to fill the holes in the teeth can cause cracks in the tooth’s enamel over time. These are called microfractures. Microfractures occur when the metal filling is inserted into the cavity. The metal is compacted tightly into the cavity, and it expands as it dries fully. This exerts a slight against the healthy enamel. Things get worse when you eat. Chewing your food puts pressure on the metal, which then constantly pushes against your enamel. Over the years, this will crack the enamel and create more decay and pain.


A lesser-known danger of having metal fillings is that people can have an allergic reaction. Nashua Family Dentistry says that people are not supposed to have metal in them. While it is rare, some people have an allergic reaction to the metal, especially that small amount of mercury. This can mean skin rashes, itches and other allergy symptoms.

Maryland Holistic Dentists notes that many people don’t even know that it’s their metal fillings that are causing their symptoms. It could take years of medical investigation to realise that fillings are what are making patients sick. 

Metal allergies are not a concern when people choose tooth-coloured fillings. They are made of ceramic material.

Bad breath

It might not be a side-effect of metal fillings, but it certainly does impact one’s quality of life to have chronic bad breath.

Anaerobic bacteria feed off the proteins that are in your mouth. The blood from bleeding gums is one source of protein for the bacteria. Once the bacteria have consumed this protein (blood in this case), the by-product is a sulfur compound, which manifests as bad breath.

As the fillings start to corrode, you may notice a metallic taste in your mouth. The filling might even start to break down and leave that part of the tooth exposed to bacteria, and once that happens, it could also lead to a bad taste in your mouth, warns Terra Breath. This is the first sign that the metal has deteriorated, and you will soon start smelling the corrosion.

When a filling deteriorates, the surrounding gum will develop an abscess. The mouth is prone to infection and gum disease. The sooner you visit your dentist and get a good oral regime going, the better the chances are of not getting periodontal disease.

Get medical insurance like Affinity Dental to ensure that you are covered and receive the best, modern dental care from a list of our handpicked professionals on our network.

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