Amalgam Dental Fillings: Are They Cause for Concern? | Mount Lawley Dental
Amalgam Dental Fillings: Are They Cause for Concern
General Dentistry

Amalgam Dental Fillings: Are They Cause for Concern

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Metal amalgam fillings are being phased out in Australia, but old fillings don’t need to be removed in most cases.

3 minute read

Silver-coloured metal amalgam fillings may not be the preferred choice for most people today, but they don’t usually have to be removed unless the filling is damaged, causing problems, or is a confirmed health risk. They may also be replaced with white fillings for aesthetic reasons, as long as you’re aware of the possible risks of amalgam removal.

Some people with metal fillings are concerned about the presence of mercury inside the filling, but this is harmless in most cases. Learn more about the use, safety and legality of amalgam fillings in Australia below, and talk to our dentists in Mount Lawley if you want to know how this affects you.

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What are amalgam fillings?

Amalgam fillingsMetal amalgam fillings were the most common type of dental filling used for decades, before the development of tooth-coloured composite fillings as a more natural-looking alternative. Dental amalgam is composed of several metals, including an alloy of copper, silver and tin in powdered form combined with liquid mercury. This gives the fillings a distinct silver or dark appearance in the mouth.


The presence of toxic mercury is a cause for concern for some people, as amalgam fillings release small amounts of mercury over time that are absorbed by the body. However, only high levels of mercury are harmful to human health, and the level of free mercury in amalgam fillings is considered too low to be a danger to most people, although children and people with certain medical conditions may be at higher risk.

Another concern is the effect of mercury pollution on the environment. This requires responsible care and handling by dentists when removing amalgam fillings and ensuring they are disposed of correctly.

Our dentists at Mount Lawley Dental are qualified and experienced to provide safe amalgam removal in Perth. To find out more or book a consultation, contact us today.

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Are amalgam fillings banned in Australia?

Use of amalgam fillings has declined in Australia over the years, and many dental clinics no longer offer the material as an option. This is mainly a response to the general preference for more lifelike fillings by patients, but also in accordance with international treaties concerning the trade and use of mercury.

Under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, amalgam fillings provided since 1 January 2024 may only contain capsulated and pre-dosed amalgam, with no bulk mercury added. The convention also strongly discourages the use of amalgam fillings for:

  • Primary (baby) teeth
  • Patients under 15
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding patients
  • People with kidney disease
  • Those with allergies to amalgam or a component metal

Dental amalgam continues to be offered in appropriate situations, and when patients are fully informed of the possible risks.

What are the pros and cons of amalgam fillings?

Metal amalgam fillings have been used for over 150 years in dentistry to repair damaged or worn teeth. Developed as a more affordable alternative to gold fillings, today they cost more than composite fillings, but they can also last longer before they need to be replaced.

Some downsides of metal fillings are that they look more noticeable in the mouth than composite 'white' fillings and they can sometimes cause cracks to develop in teeth over time. Extensive clinical research has found no association between amalgam fillings and a higher risk of developing medical conditions related to mercury exposure, such as kidney disease, autoimmune disease, cognitive dysfunction or adverse pregnancy outcomes, but use of these fillings is still discouraged for higher-risk groups.

Should I replace my amalgam fillings?

Replacing old mercury fillings

There is no need to replace an amalgam filling that isn’t causing problems, as there’s no evidence that other filling materials lead to better health outcomes, but your dentist can replace old or damaged amalgam with new composite fillings if needed. This may be necessary if a filling is damaged or loose, or it may be an aesthetic choice as part of a smile makeover.

Your dentist will make sure you understand the possible risks involved in amalgam removal, which can include exposure to mercury. This risk can be lowered when you choose a suitably qualified and experienced dentist who follows the approved procedures for safe amalgam removal and disposal.

During your consultation for amalgam removal, your dentist will check the condition of your filling and determine whether it can be replaced with another filling or a different restoration, such as an onlay or crown. Different materials and options have their benefits and limitations that your dentist will explain so you can make fully informed decisions.

How to avoid fillings

Cavities and fillings can be avoided altogether by taking good care of your teeth to keep them strong and healthy. This includes:

  • Twice-daily brushing: Brush your teeth in the morning and evening for two minutes each time. Use fluoride toothpaste for added protection and a soft-bristled toothbrush to prevent damage, and change your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every three months.
  • Daily flossing: As well as brushing, it’s important to clean between your teeth at least once a day using dental floss or an alternative such as a floss holder or water flosser.
  • Healthy diet: Cut down on added sugar and acids that cause tooth decay and erosion, and try to eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to teeth, such as calcium.
  • Water: Drink plenty of water to help cleanse and hydrate your mouth, especially tap water containing fluoride at safe levels.
  • Visit the dentist: Keep up with your scheduled dental check-ups once or twice a year for a complete oral health assessment and oral hygiene maintenance.

Amalgam removal and general dentistry in Mt Lawley

If you think you might need a filling or you’re considering replacing a metal filling with a white filling, speak to our experienced dentists at Mount Lawley Dental.

Call our friendly team on (08) 9227 8777 or book an appointment online. We see patients from all nearby areas, including Highgate, Inglewood and North Perth.

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