What are toxic dental materials?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

Toxic dental materials refer to substances used in dental procedures that have the potential to be harmful to human health. These materials may release toxic substances or chemicals that could have adverse effects on the body. While dental materials are typically safe and regulated, there are a few types of dental fillings that have been a subject of concern regarding their potential toxicity.

1. Dental amalgam fillings (mercury fillings):
Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, including silver, tin, copper, and approximately 50% elemental mercury. Mercury is a known neurotoxin and can be released in small amounts from dental amalgam fillings over time. While the American Dental Association (ADA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider dental amalgam safe for most individuals, there are concerns about the potential long-term health effects, especially in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children.

2. Composite resin fillings:
Composite resin fillings are tooth-colored fillings made of a mixture of plastic and glass particles. They have gained popularity due to their aesthetic appeal, but some concerns have been raised about their safety. The main concern is the release of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that has been linked to potential hormonal disruptions. However, composite fillings typically release very small amounts of BPA, and studies have shown that the exposure is well below levels considered harmful.

3. Glass ionomer fillings:
Glass ionomer fillings are a type of dental cement that releases fluoride and is commonly used for filling cavities in children. While fluoride is beneficial for dental health, excessive exposure can lead to dental fluorosis or other health issues. However, the levels of fluoride released from glass ionomer fillings are generally considered safe and within the recommended limits.

4. Resin-ionomer fillings:
Resin-ionomer fillings are a combination of composite resin and glass ionomer materials. They provide the benefits of both materials, including aesthetics and fluoride release. However, as with glass ionomer fillings, concerns about excessive fluoride exposure may arise if multiple restorations are placed in a short period.

5. Metal-based fillings:
Certain metal-based fillings, such as nickel-chromium alloys, have raised concerns regarding potential allergic reactions in some individuals. Allergic reactions to these materials can cause oral discomfort, inflammation, or even systemic symptoms in rare cases.

It’s important to note that the potential toxicity of dental materials is a topic of ongoing research and debate. Regulatory bodies and dental associations continuously monitor and update guidelines to ensure the safety of dental materials. Dentists also take precautions to minimize any potential risks associated with dental fillings by using proper techniques and materials. If you have concerns about the materials used in dental procedures, it’s always best to discuss them with your dentist to make an informed decision about your oral health.