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Quintessence Int 34 (2003), No. 4     1. Apr. 2003
Quintessence Int 34 (2003), No. 4  (01.04.2003)

Page 287-294


Unusual in vivo extensive corrosion of a low-silver amalgam restoration involving galvanic coupling: A case report
Toumelin-Chemla, Florence / Lasfargues, Jean-Jacques
The basic mechanism of dental amalgam corrosion has been thoroughly studied during the last 50 years by various experimental techniques, most often carried out in vitro. Electrochemical methods were extensively employed, and it was recognized that a gradual dealloying of the more electroactive components, Zn, Sn, and to a lesser extent Cu, contributed to change the surface composition. It is also well known that, in all circumstances, galvanic coupling threatens the longevity of the restoration. Among the patients examined at the hospital attached to the Department of Dental Surgery of the Paris 5 University, the authors observed, in a few exceptional circumstances of defective restorations, a release of liquid metal droplets in the surrounding tissue. These particles were identified as elemental mercury. This unexpected phenomenon was the result of the use of a low-silver-content alloy, combined with an enhanced corrosion process due to galvanic coupling with a silver alloy crown and brass screw-posts. In the described clinical case, the tooth, which had to be extracted, was axially sliced for observation by scanning electron microscopy coupled with elemental analysis by X-ray fluorescence energy dispersive spectroscopy. The observations showed a dramatic corrosion of the amalgam matrix with the formation of porosity even in the bulk of the material. Superposition of the element mappings proved (1) the electrochemical coupling of the amalgam with the silver-based crown, (2) the decalcification of the dentin, and (3) the formation of tin oxychloride precipitates in the matrix porosities and the interfacial gaps. These experimental results corroborate the corrosion mechanisms described hereupon. They support the current national and international recommendations for the dental amalgam formulation and for a rigorous professional practice.