Silver fillings and dental insurance – KION546

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SALINAS, Calif. (KION) If you’ve ever had tooth decay, you’ve probably gone to your dentist to have it filled.

But for certain groups of people like children under six, getting the common silver-colored amalgam could be more risky due to potential exposure to mercury. While the FDA recommends these groups avoid silver fillings if possible, dentists say many insurances don’t cover the alternatives, forcing some to opt for silver anyway.

For George and Mimi Niesen, dental care has been a regular routine in their lives since the early years, especially for Mrs.

“I was a really bad dog when I was a kid and a 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 commonplace in mouths. Today, only 50% of American dentists still use this material to fill dental cavities. That drops to just 35% on the west coast.

“It’s easy to install. The material is cheap. It’s durable, it’s durable. So it’s worked really well for pediatric patients, children, for places where it’s difficult to get a filling. The silver amalgam works pretty well,” said Dr. Eric Brown, director of public relations for the Monterey Bay Dental Society.

Silver fillings – officially known as dental amalgam – consist of a mixture of silver, copper, tin and zinc. There’s another important addition that helps bind these metals together: mercury, which has been linked to things like mood swings, trouble sleeping, fatigue, and tremors if there’s too much of it. exposure in the body.

Dental amalgam contains about 50% mercury by weight. Dentists, however, say that when combined with other metals, it will form a safe and stable material.

Additionally, several health agencies, including the FDA, CDC, and the World Health Organization, also state that, based on years of study and research, there has not been until there is a direct correlation between mercury in amalgam and possible adverse health effects.

Although 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 mercury exposure.” This includes pregnant women, nursing mothers, 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 many long-term studies that take these groups and research dental amalgam with them for these reasons because these are sensitive groups,” Dr. Brown.

If you’re one of them, the FDA recommends avoiding amalgam fillings if “possible and appropriate” and opting for alternatives like white composite resin or gold fillings.

But one problem that many individuals and families in these groups face: Many dental insurance companies don’t cover alternatives for back molars because they’re more expensive and aren’t as durable as amalgam.

So sensitive patients end up having to pay out of pocket – or end up choosing the cash instead. This is something the American and Californian 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 while they 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 is a dollar they earn,” Dr. Brown said. “So they usually lag behind the standard of care. So most of them pay for the filling in cash and the patient then has to pay the difference for the resin.

Delta Dental defends its benefit plans by stating via email, “If an alternative procedure is used to calculate benefits, the purpose of using a lower cost alternative restorative procedure is to keep the cost of care down. health as low as possible.”

For low-income families with children, the out-of-pocket costs can add up.

CDA emailed KION a statement saying, “With the limitations imposed by commercial benefit plans, patients may be swayed by cost as amalgam is generally less expensive than composite materials. Although there are now many options for filling materials, amalgam’s long history of safe and comparatively lower cost continues to be a good option for many patients.

“Well, the insurance coverage is not good. But I pay 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 won’t change, for now it’s best to talk to your dentist about your medical history and see what the best options are for you.

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