Learn great tips and tricks from our top contributor, Captain Smiles. We've got answers and info to help you maintain healthy dental health at Spirit Dental!

Do You Have Mercury Fillings? Here Are Some Things to Be Aware Of

amalgams 2019

Amalgam fillings go by other names, such as silver fillings and mercury fillings. This material has been used by dentists around the world for more than 150 years to help people keep their teeth when a cavity develops. Rather than having to yank a tooth because of decay, dentists can fill it and restore its strength.

You or someone you love might even have a mercury filling in one or more of your teeth already. Unfortunately, despite their long history and widespread use, there is quite a bit of controversy and concern surrounding the use of mercury fillings. So, what are some of the things that you should be aware of so that you can make more informed decisions when you’re at the dentist and told that you have a cavity? Check out the info below to learn more.

What Are Amalgam Fillings?

Do amalgam fillings contain mercury? The answer is yes, they do. But there’s more to it.

Beyond mercury, which makes up roughly half of the filling, other metals are used to create a durable material that will last a long time and withstand pressure from chewing. Those metals include copper, silver, and tin.

Because these fillings are visible, thanks to their silvery appearance, many people today opt for composite fillings instead because they’re tooth-colored and, therefore, not obvious when you open your mouth. But newer fillings can be more expensive, and they may not be appropriate in all cases, so amalgam is still commonly used.   

Why the Big Fuss Over Mercury Fillings?

According to the FDA, if you get an amalgam filling, the great thing about it is that there’s a lower chance of it breaking compared to other materials. Plus, it’s the most affordable of the options available. But experts do admit that there are some potential risks to consider before you and your dentist decide to go with amalgam.

So, here’s the thing: because these fillings have elemental mercury in them, a low level of mercury vapor is released. And that vapor can, indeed, be absorbed by your lungs when you inhale. Okay, that’s kind of scary, right? But it gets worse: if your body is exposed to high levels of this vapor, the kidneys and brain might also be affected. It’s no wonder that there are so many concerns about mercury fillings!

Then there’s a little something known as bioaccumulation, which is the term used for the buildup of a chemical within the body. You guessed it—mercury, even from a filling, is considered bioaccumulative. Basically, the vapor from these fillings can build up in certain tissues, including those in the brain and kidneys, even though the vapor is absorbed mostly by the lungs.  

But, Wait, You Can Rest Easy About Amalgam Fillings After All

That’s a lot of bad news about amalgam fillings, huh? But there’s something else that you should know: the FDA has stated that they’ve reviewed available evidence in an effort to figure out if a low amount of mercury vapor from a filling would really be harmful to human health.

Bottom line: experts have concluded that these fillings are safe after all. In fact, children from age 6 and above, as well as adults, of course, can get a mercury filling without having to worry about it having an adverse effect on their health.

On top of that, clinical studies in kids and adults haven’t been able to find any link between health problems and the mercury in dental fillings. Phew!

And you know how it could bioaccumulate? Well, studies haven’t been able to prove that this causes any actual damage to the body’s organs. That’s a relief, right?

Allergies to Mercury? Yep, It Can Happen

It’s worth noting that some people may be sensitive to mercury, or they might even be allergic to it. Beyond that, some individuals might not be the right candidates for an amalgam filling because they’re allergic to the other metals within it.

Symptoms of an adverse reaction to an amalgam filling include contact reactions and oral lesions. Ouch!

The best way to avoid these reactions is to let your dentist know if you’re allergic to any of the components in the fillings. Don’t worry, modern dentistry offers so many great alternatives that will help you get your teeth strong and healthy again.

Should You Bother Having Your Mercury Fillings Replaced?

With newer filling materials available, you might be thinking, “Should I just replace my old amalgam fillings?” According to experts, the short answer is, no, you don’t really have to, unless you’re sensitive or allergic to the mercury or the other metals in the amalgam.

Also, if your fillings aren’t holding up anymore, or if there is decay under a filling, you can have an old filling removed and replaced with a different material, such as a composite filling. But if your fillings are still in good shape and your teeth are fine, there’s likely no need to go through the trouble—and expense—of having them replaced.

Plus, when you have an amalgam filling removed, more vapor will be released in the process. And your dentist will have to remove more healthy tooth, too. So, as you can see, it might not be worth it. But, ultimately, this important decision will be up to you and your dentist.

Still Have Questions About Mercury in Dental Fillings?

If you’re still concerned about mercury in fillings, or if you’re pregnant and you need to have dental work done, it’s best to consult with your dentist to learn about the pros and cons of amalgam. You can even let your dentist know that you’re interested in learning about other, newer filling materials that contain less mercury or no mercury at all. No matter what, you have options, whether you choose to go with good old amalgam or an alternative filling material to restore the health of your teeth.

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Food for Healthy Teeth: How Nutrition Impacts Your Dental Health

food and healthy 2019

They say you are what you eat, but did you know about the impact that nutrition has on your pearly whites, in particular? A lot of people don’t realize that food not only promotes the health of your skin, bones, and organs, but also the health of your teeth and gums.  

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Waterpik vs. Floss: Which Is Better

waterpick vs floss

Flossing is an integral component to any great oral hygiene routine. If you are brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day, you’re on the right track towards maintaining healthy gums, strong teeth, and fresh breath.

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Exercises for TMJ Pain

tmj pain 2019

If you’ve been diagnosed with TMJ, you know how painful it can be. But you don’t have to live with the discomfort. In addition to working with your dentist to determine what treatment options would be right for you, there are also easy exercises for TMJ pain that you can do at home. A few of those exercises are described below to help you get started.

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Mouthguards | What Are They and Why Do You Need Them?

mouthguards 2019

Participating in activities like sports and martial arts can be a lot of fun, as well as a smart way to exercise, but it could also be risky, particularly when it comes to your teeth. And that’s where a good mouthguard can come in to provide the protection that you need.

What are mouthguards, and why would you need to use one? We’ve got you covered with some helpful information below.   

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Bad Breath | How To Break the News

bad breath 2019

Bad breath is unpleasant and embarrassing. No one wants it, and no one wants to smell it either. But, sometimes, the person who has it isn’t even aware of the problem. So, what can you do to break the news gently to someone who has halitosis so that you can both get relief?   

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Tooth Sensitivity | How to Handle

tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is a literal pain. And even though it is temporary, arising suddenly before subsiding after a few moments, no one wants to deal with the discomfort that comes with sensitive teeth, especially while enjoying tasty foods and drinks. Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to handle sensitivity in your pearly whites, so a few easy strategies and treatments are listed below to help you get relief.  

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Selecting A Toothbrush | What You Should Consider

selecting a toothbrush

Walk into a store that sells dental care products and you’ll be inundated with a range of toothbrushes, from manual to electronic, and from soft to hard bristles. Sometimes, having so many options is a good thing; other times, it only makes shopping for the right product all the more confusing.

When it comes to shopping for a toothbrush, how do you know that you’re choosing one that will really keep your teeth and gums healthy, without causing irritation? To help you make the right decision, we’ve compiled a short list of things that you should consider.

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Oil Pulling | What Is It?

oil pulling 2019

If you’re the type of person who is all about doing things naturally, you have likely come across something known as oil pulling.

What is oil pulling, and how can it affect your dental health? Should you give it a try, or are you better off sticking with basic brushing and flossing to maintain clean, strong teeth and gums?

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Toothache Symptoms and Remedies

toothache symptoms

If you’ve ever experienced a toothache, which is pain that’s felt around or in your tooth, you aren’t alone. This is a common problem, but a lot of people aren’t sure about what causes a toothache and what can be done to get rid of the pain. That’s why we’ve compiled some helpful information about the symptoms of a toothache, along with tips on what you can do to feel relief.

Let’s Start with What Causes a Toothache, Shall We?

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Connecting the Dots | Tooth Decay & Hearing Loss

tooth and hearing loss

You’ve learned about the connection between dental health and heart health, right? But have you read about the link between tooth decay and hearing loss? It’s true; taking care of your chompers may also help you maintain your hearing!

Continue reading to learn about yet another interesting way that the various parts of your body are connected.

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Dental News Review – 2018

2018 year in review

Every year, new research in the world of dentistry opens our eyes to information that can help us gain even greater control over our oral health. Whether you’re learning more about the connections between the health of your mouth and the well-being of the rest of your body, or you’re accessing new tips on how to address a range of common dental problems, there’s always some fresh insight to look forward to. And 2018 definitely did not disappoint. Check out our dental news review below to learn about a few of the top headlines from the last year.

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Wisdom Tooth Removal

wisdom teeth

Wisdom tooth removal: it’s surprisingly common, yet it does make people super nervous. So we’ve compiled a short guide to what you can expect when you need to have one or more of your wisdom teeth extracted.   

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Sparkling Water | Does It Affect Your Teeth?

sparkling water

When you aren’t in the mood for plain water, sparkling water might seem like the next best choice. After all, it isn’t sugary soda or juice, right? But it turns out that this water might affect your teeth in negative ways. How can this be possible? We explain it all below.

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How To Prevent Morning Breath

morning breath

Nobody likes morning breath. Unfortunately, everyone gets it, thanks to the fact that, while you’re off in dreamland, your saliva production decreases and your mouth gets dry, allowing bacteria to multiply. But there’s hope! To help prevent that offensive odor, try out the simple strategies below.

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Holiday Healthy Teeth Snack Ideas

holiday snacks

The holiday season is sugary sweet, what with all of the cakes, cookies, and candies to be had. But we don’t need to tell you that all of that sugar can wreak havoc on your teeth.

To keep those pearly whites cavity-free as you feast your way through the holidays, consider the following healthy snack ideas that are sure to satisfy.

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The Causes of Bleeding Gums

bleeding gums

Have you noticed that your gums bleed, especially when you brush or floss? If you’ve ever wondered why this happens, you aren’t alone.

Although this is a common problem, it’s important to know that the reason for it may be serious, so keep reading to learn about a few of the main causes of bleeding gums, along with what you can do to remedy this oral health issue.

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Teeth Whitening: The New Trends

teeth whitening strips

Stained teeth are unattractive, so it’s no surprise that there are so many whitening products and techniques available today. Whether you want to take a DIY approach at home or you prefer to leave it up to the pros at your dentist’s office, whitening your teeth to the perfect shade is possible.

To help you discover more about what your options are, we’ve compiled a list of the latest teeth whitening trends. Check them out below.

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Water Flosser vs. String Floss

flossing vs waterpick

To use a water flosser or string floss: that is the question. And it’s an important question because you want to take the right steps daily to keep as much plaque off of your teeth as possible.

The right flossing technique can help keep tooth and gum problems at bay, but there are pros and cons associated with using a water flosser vs. string floss. That’s why we’ve broken it all down for you below.

String Floss: The Pros

  • As the name implies, string flossing involves the use of a thin string that you gently pass in between all of your teeth. Using a semi-circular motion helps you target the sides of each tooth, as well as the gums, so that you can effectively scrape away damaging plaque, as well as remove small particles of food that you might’ve missed while brushing. Simple enough, right?
  • Another reason why string floss is so popular is because it’s inexpensive. Simply purchase some string floss while you’re grocery shopping! A single package could last quite a while, too, which is definitely a plus.
  • You could purchase floss picks, so you don’t have to worry about cutting enough string and wrapping it around your fingers as you make your way throughout your mouth. Plus, with a floss pick, which consists of a small amount of string on a plastic handle, you might even find it easier to reach your back teeth.
  • There are different types of string floss that you can choose from. For example, waxed floss might be easier to use if regular floss tends to get stuck in between your teeth. Or, you could look for floss that’s specially designed for those with tight teeth. Now, that’s a relief!
  • With some string floss handy, you can floss anytime and anywhere!

String Floss: The Cons

  • Flossing with a string might cause bleeding, especially if you’re too aggressive or fast. The more you floss, though, and the gentler that you are, the less likely it might be that your gums bleed. In the event that your gums continue to bleed, or you experience gum sensitivity, despite a consistent brushing and flossing routine, it’s best to consult with your dentist to rule out conditions like gingivitis.
  • Some people find it really difficult to floss in between their back teeth, whether they use regular string floss or a floss pick. That’s a problem!
  • Using the same string between multiple sets of teeth (as would be the case when using a floss pick) might actually lead to the distribution of bacteria or food particles. You definitely don’t want that.
  • It could be difficult to figure out how to hold string floss properly, and that can make flossing more time-consuming or frustrating than it needs to be. Some people never really get the hang of it, and that might even discourage them from flossing at all. Not good!

Water Flosser Pros

  • When most people think of flossing, they think of string floss, but there is another option to get the same job done. Also referred to as water picking, water flossing uses an electronic, handheld device that shoots a stream of water with the right amount of pressure. Directing this stream into the areas between your teeth can help remove plaque and food particles just like string floss would.
  • The massaging action of a water flosser might help boost the health of your gums, provided that you use the product correctly and avoid causing irritation.
  • You might find it easier to reach every area of your mouth when you use a water flosser. It may even be a better choice for those have braces, as well as those who have bridgework.  
  • You might discover that you’re able to spend less time water flossing than string flossing. There’s no need to fumble with wrapping string around your fingers while ensuring that you use the right motions to scrape the surfaces of the teeth and gums. Plus, water flossers could be a better choice if you have arthritis.
  • Here’s a big one: when researchers compared water flossing to string flossing, they found that water flossing was more effective at reducing plaque. Experts also determined that water flossing could be more effective at reducing gum bleeding and gingivitis. Wow!

Water Flosser Cons

  • Unlike string floss, which is easy to find and inexpensive, water flossers can be pricey. Plus, because there are so many different types of water flossers to choose from, the buying process could become daunting or confusing.   
  • Water flossers come in a range of models, some of which are larger than others and require more storage space in your bathroom. Also, water flossers need to be plugged in or charged up for use. If your flosser uses a rechargeable battery and you forget to charge it, you won’t be able to floss. Yikes! And packing your water flosser when you have to travel might be a hassle as well.
  • You may feel as though you don’t have as much control when using a water flosser, as opposed to string floss, particularly if you’re trying to target a specific area.
  • When using a water flosser, you’ll need to lean over the sink and move the flosser along your teeth, ensuring the stream gets in between them, while allowing the water to flow out of your mouth. It might take a bit of time for you to get used to how the pressure feels, and it might get messy as you learn how to avoid splashing water everywhere.

Daily Flossing: You Have Options!

Brushing your teeth twice a day is a good start when it comes to removing plaque, but your brush will really only work on the surfaces of your chompers. To get to the areas in between your pearly whites, flossing is a must. Your dentist or dental hygienist can teach you how to do it right. And the best part is that it only takes a couple of minutes to floss your whole mouth, so you can easily do it once or twice a day as part of your oral hygiene routine.

Hopefully, this guide has given you some insight into the advantages and disadvantages of the types of flossing tools available. You might decide to try string flossing before purchasing a more expensive water flosser to see if you like it better. Ultimately, though, your dentist will be able to tell you whether or not your flossing is on point, and he or she can also help you choose the right tool for your particular oral health needs. So don’t forget to schedule those dental checkups!

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Dental Care During Pregnancy Guidelines

dental care during pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, you might wonder if it’s safe to receive oral health care from your dental hygienist and dentist. Should you stick to your appointments for checkups and cleanings? Is there an increased risk of developing certain oral health problems while pregnant? And is it a good idea to receive more advanced dental treatments while you’re expecting?

These are all valid questions, so we’ve compiled a few dental care during pregnancy guidelines to outline what steps you can take to keep your mouth, and your growing baby, healthy until your due date.

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