Solvay 360's Philip Silver talks about the effects of oral galvanism caused by dental metals
A wide range of metal materials are used in dentistry, all of which have different levels of electrical potential. Gold crowns, chrome cobalt partial dentures, mercury fillings, nickel or iron-based orthodontic wires, silver solders and titanium implants are regularly used, but when dissimilar or incompatible metals are located in the mouth, the scene could be set for oral galvanism.
Oral galvanism, sometimes referred to as oral electricity or electro galvanism is a dental phenomenon that has the potential to cause oral pain and discomfort. When metal dental materials are placed in the oral cavity, electromechanical and chemical reactions occur. If two or more dissimilar alloys exist in the mouth at the same time and are combined with saliva, which acts as an electrolyte, a flow of electric current can be produced through the metal/metal connections as well as the oral tissues, which can cause a sharp shock or pain.
It has been suggested that these electrical currents can reach up to 900 millivolts doubling the body’s normal 450 millivolts, which might interfere with natural energy flow to the brain. This may be why electro galvanism has been named as the catalyst for many illnesses and symptoms including: lack of concentration and memory, insomnia, tinnitus, vertigo, epilepsy, hearing loss, eye problems and some psychological problems.
Oral galvanism can also accelerate corrosion rates and therefore poses a greater risk of undesirable reactions in the mouth as well as increasing the amount of metal ions released into the body. Exposure of metal ions as a result of galvanic currents means that corrosive products are distributed into the saliva and surrounding tissues. This alone can cause an unpleasant metallic taste and burning sensation. However, on top of these local effects, it can also trigger a variety of symptoms from mucosal changes and skin disease to headache, nausea, problems with the eyes, throat or ears, and even cause excessive fatigue and autoimmune responses.
It is becoming increasingly important to evaluate the value of incompatible, electricity-generating dental materials. Dental professionals are seeing many more patients of ‘the heavy metal generation’ who have been treated for many years with metal fillings and restorations. Not only do these patients have higher maintenance needs as they age, but due to their existing oral environment they are at a higher risk of oral galvanism.
Dental professionals must be mindful of the unpleasant metal- and chemical-induced reactions that might be occurring in patients’ mouths. Fortunately, the choice of materials used in the dental clinical arena is evolving rapidly and there are a number of alternatives to mixing different types of potentially reactive metal in the mouth. Solvay Dental 360, for example, has custom-developed Ultaire AKP specifically for the fabrication of removable partial denture (RPD) frames. This high performance polymer is completely metal-free and eliminates the difficulties associated with different metal combinations.
RPDs made from Ultaire AKP are strong enough to meet rigid performance requirements but are also elastic in tension, plus thin and lightweight so they feel comfortable in the mouth. This new material does not distort and has bone-like properties that improve the overall fit of the dentures which avoids point loading or uneven force and could even reduce future bone loss, while resolving issues caused by electro galvanism.
Phillip Silver is the UK Country Manager and Consultant at Solvay Dental 360. He is a specialist in medical technologies and materials with over two decades of experience in both implantable and non-implantable devices.
For more information about Solvay Dental 360 and its materials visit www.solvaydental360.com