Dental Materials: Mercury Fillings Part I

Amalgam Filling and elemental mercuryAmalgam fillings (or often called silver or mercury fillings because of their color and composition) and their potential health hazard have been one of the large debates in the dental field for quite some time. Unfortunately it is easy to get confused with all the information posted on the topic. Although we do not profess to be the authority on the issue of amalgam fillings, we would like to provide a clear summary for those interested in understanding the potential risks and hopefully to aid them in making a well informed decision concerning their dental treatment.

What are amalgam fillings?

When a portion of a tooth is missing due to a cavity, decay, or even trauma, the damaged portion is replaced in an effort to best restore the structure and function to that of the original tooth. Amalgam is a filling material that has been used extensively for many years that is approximately 50% mercury, 25% silver and other metal components. These were initially made because of their ability to easily provide a durable filling material at a low cost.

Potential Risk?

Many are concerned with the fact that amalgam fillings contain mercury – a well known metal that, at certain doses, has adverse health effects. The mercury contained in amalgam fillings is elemental mercury that can release vapors. In certain studies, trace amounts of mercury have been found in multiple organs in the body such as the lungs, kidney, stomach and others.

Why are many dentists still using amalgam fillings if they have a potential risk?

Although the topic is well known, many dentists ignore the potential risks that come with the use of amalgam fillings. No definitive statements suggesting the discontinuation of mercury use in filling material has been made by the ADA (American Dental Association) or the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The reputation of these and others that promote amalgam use is potentially on the line for allowing the risks to exist. Our concern is that most of those that have amalgam fillings were not given a choice to avoid the mercury filling and did not discuss the benefits of the available alternatives.

A good holistic dentist will not sacrifice the patients potential overall health and strives to inform them of alternatives that will both increase their oral health and avoid the risk of amalgam use.

If you are concerned about your amalgam fillings, see Part II for treatment recommendations.