SALINAS, Calif. (KION) If you’ve ever had tooth decay, you’ve probably gone to your dentist to get it fixed.
But for certain groups of people like children under the age of six, getting the silver-colored common amalgam could be more risky due to the potential exposure to mercury. While the FDA recommends these groups avoid silver fillings if possible, dentists say many insurances do not cover the alternatives, forcing some to go for the silver anyway.
For George and Mimi Niesen, dental care has been a constant routine in their lives since the early years, especially for Ms.
“I was a really bad dog when I was a kid and teenager. I ate all the wrong foods, so I had a lot of cavities and a lot of silver fillings, ”said Mimi Niesen, a resident of Salinas.
Silver fillings were once common in the mouth. Today, only 50% of American dentists still use this material to fill dental cavities. That drops to just 35 percent on the west coast.
“It’s easy to set up. The material is cheap. It’s sustainable, it’s sustainable. So it worked really well for pediatric patients, kids, places where it’s hard to get a filling. The silver amalgam works quite well, ”said Dr. Eric Brown, director of public relations for the Monterey Bay Dental Society.
Silver fillings – formerly known as dental amalgam – are made from a mixture of silver, copper, tin, and zinc. There is another important addition that helps bind these metals together: mercury, which has been linked to things like mood disturbances, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and tremors if there is too much of it. exposure in the body.
Dental amalgam contains approximately 50% mercury by weight. Dentists, however, say that when combined with other metals, it will form a safe and stable material.
In addition, several health agencies, including the FDA, CDC, and the World Health Organization, also claim, based on years of study and research, that there has not been until now a direct correlation between mercury from amalgam and possible adverse health effects.
While silver fillings are safe and effective in repairing cavities in the general population, they can release mercury vapor in small amounts.
The FDA warns that inhaling these vapors may be harmful in some patients who “may be more sensitive to the effects of exposure to mercury.” This includes pregnant women, nursing mothers, especially children under the age of six, and people with neurological disorders or kidney problems.
“The main reason for this is that there haven’t been a lot of long-term studies that take these groups and look for dental amalgamation with them for these reasons, because they are sensitive groups,” said the Dr Brown.
If you are one of them, the FDA recommends avoiding dental amalgam if “possible and appropriate” and going for alternatives like white composite resin or gold fillings.
But a problem that many individuals and families in these groups face: Many dental insurance companies do not cover alternatives for back molars because they are more expensive and not as durable as amalgam.
Patients so sensitive end up having to pay out of pocket for them – or end up choosing money instead. This is something the American and California dental associations have been trying to change for years, to no avail.
A spokesperson for Delta Dental – the nation’s largest dental coverage provider – told KION that although they do cover composite fillings for back molars, it depends on the patient’s benefit plan.
“Insurance companies, especially dental insurance companies, for every dollar they don’t spend, it’s a dollar they earn,” Dr. Brown said. “So they’re usually behind the standard of care. So most of them pay for the silver filling and then the patient has to pay the difference for the resin.
Delta Dental defends its benefit plans, stating via email: “If another procedure is used to calculate the benefit, the goal of using another lower cost restoration procedure is to keep the cost of the benefits low. health care as low as possible. “
For low-income families with children, personal expenses could add up.
CDA emailed KION: “With the limitations posed by commercial benefit plans, patients can be influenced by cost, as amalgam is generally less expensive than composite materials. a lower cost continues to be a good option for many patients.
“Well the insurance coverage is not good. But I’m paying out of pocket because it’s a necessity, ”Niesen said.
“Dental insurance companies should pay for composite resin because it is the most widely used material today,” Dr. Brown said.
While things aren’t changing, for now, it’s best to talk to your dentist about your medical history and see what the best options are for you.