Healthy Living

Chew on This: Debating Dental Filling Safety

Sep. 2, 2013
Controversy, debate and conflicting media stories have caused some confusion for adults or parents of children who need a cavity filled. Dental expert Dr. Hans Malmstrom helps clear the confusion about dental fillings.
Dental fillings must be pliable enough to fill the cavity, yet hard enough to withstand daily chewing – but not so hard that it wears the enamel on surrounding teeth. 
dental exam
Fillings vary in color and content.
  • Silver fillings, or amalgams, are still one of the most common types. They are actually a combination of silver, mercury, tin and copper. While mercury may raise concerns for some, research has shown that amalgam fillings are safe and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees.
  • White fillings, composites, or sealants, have gained popularity because they more closely match tooth color compared to silver fillings. While white fillings don’t have mercury, many of them contain compounds that turn into BPA, or bisphenol A, a resin used in many kinds of plastics, which some studies have pointed to as cause for concern. 
According to the American Dental Association, potential BPA exposure from dental sealants or composites is not a cause for concern. Exposure risk is significantly lower in dental materials than from other sources of BPA. Hopefully, these concerns will soon disappear soon as experts around the globe work to develop dental fillers that are risk-free and durable. Eastman Dental is doing its part by helping to test a BPA-free filling through a leading company who specializes in dental products.
While there are other BPA-free dental materials on the market, we are looking for one with better performance, especially in the back of the mouth, where most chewing occurs. We’ll be looking at how well it seals and wears, if bacteria will stick to the filling, and how well it polishes to decrease any discomfort from the material’s roughness. 
Want to help?
If you’re interested in helping us test the BPA-free filling and you have two or more dental cavities or fillings that need replacing in the back of your mouth, you may qualify. Our researchers at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health are looking for healthy adults to take part in the study. To learn more about the study, call (585) 275-9001.
Hans Malstrom, DDS
Hans Mamlstrom, DDS, a professor of Dentistry at Eastman Institute for Oral Health, heads the General Dentistry clinic at Eastman Dental.