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What is dental amalgam?

Dental amalgam is a primitive filling material made of between 43 and 54 percent mercury.  Amalgam fillings are commonly called as “silver fillings” – a marketing term that deceives many consumers into believing that amalgam is mainly silver, which is only a minor component of amalgam. 

Amalgam is not stable after it is implanted into human teeth – it constantly releases mercury vapor into your body.  And this mercury bioaccumulates.

What are the dangers of dental mercury?

  1. Dental mercury endangers our environment

    Amalgam accounts for between 240-300 tons of mercury entering the market every year. In the United States, dental offices are the second largest user of mercury – and this mercury eventually ends up in our environment by one pathway or another. Dental mercury from amalgam pollutes:

    • water via not only dental clinic releases, but also human waste (amalgam is by far the largest source of mercury in our wastewater);
    • air via cremation, dental clinic emissions, sludge incineration, and respiration; and
    • land via landfills, burials, and fertilizer. 

    Once in the environment, dental mercury converts to its even more toxic form, methylmercury, and becomes a major source of mercury in the fish people eat.

    Mercury and other toxic chemicals are accumulating in fish and wildlife to dangerous levels. Over 50,000 of U.S. lakes now have warnings regarding eating the fish. That's about 20 percent of all significant lakes in the U.S., including all Great Lakes, as well as about 7 percent of all U.S. river miles, and many coastal bays and estuaries. Over 50 percent of Florida water bodies have mercury warnings, and a large survey found over 30 percent of Floridians have dangerous levels of mercury.

    The fish and wildlife subject to these exposures are showing serious and sometimes catastrophic hormonal and reproductive problems related to the accumulation of mercury and other endocrine disrupting chemicals. Affected species include:

    Wading birds Alligators Florida panthers Minks
    Bears Seals Beluga and orca whales And more…

    The environmental health effects of amalgam are well known, and have recently been reiterated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency: brain damage and neurological problems, especially for children and the unborn babies of pregnant women.  Due to the high costs of cleaning up this environmental hazard, amalgam is now recognized as “more expensive than most, possibly all, other fillings when including environmental costs.”   

    With dental mercury uncontrollably entering the environment from multiple pathways, ending dental mercury use and transitioning to non-mercury alternatives is the only way to eliminate this significant source of mercury that threatens our environment and ultimately our health. 

  2. Dental mercury endangers our health

    The mercury in amalgam is a neurotoxin – and pro-mercury dentists are implanting it an inch from the brain! 

    Vulnerable populations – such as children, the fetuses of pregnant women, hypersensitive individuals, and people with kidney impairments – are known to be particularly susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of dental mercury. 

    That is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advisory panel on dental amalgam in December 2010 warned against the use of amalgam in vulnerable populations and insisted that FDA had a duty to disclose amalgam’s risks to parents and consumers.  As panelist Dr. Suresh Kotagal – a pediatric neurologist at the Mayo Clinic – summed it up, there is “no place for mercury in children.”

    The FDA panelists are not alone.  Other countries are already working to protect vulnerable populations, especially children, from exposure to amalgam.  For example:

    • The forty-seven nations of the Council of Europe passed a resolution calling on the nations to start “restricting or prohibiting the use of amalgams as dental fillings,” explaining that  “amalgams are the prime source of exposure to mercury for developed countries, also affecting embryos, foetuses (through the placenta) and children (through breastfeeding).  Exposure to mercury can seriously affect the health of patients and dental professionals, and early exposure to low doses of mercury (during pregnancy and through breastfeeding) increases the risk of a decrease in the intelligence quotient (IQ) among children.… According to the World Health Organization in 2005, certain studies show that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.”
    • Australia’s National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) says amalgam should be avoided in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and people with kidney disease.  As the government of the state of Queensland explains, “Amalgam is now generally avoided for filling children’s teeth. Growing children tend to be more sensitive to the effects of exposure to any chemical substance in their environment…High level exposure to mercury (which is present in silver fillings) may affect the kidneys. Therefore, the NHMRC, suggest people with kidney disease may be more concerned than others to minimise exposure to mercury.”
    • Health Canada directed its dentists to stop using amalgam in children, pregnant women, and people with impaired kidney function – way back in 1996

  3. Dental mercury endangers dental workers

    It is known that the mercury from amalgam causes reproductive harm – dental mercury even crosses the placenta and accumulates in unborn babies.

    Due to mercury exposure from amalgam in the workplace, dental workers – including dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants – are at particular risk for suffering reproductive harm.  Studies have shown that dental workers have elevated systemic mercury levels. Many of these dental workers are women of child-bearing age, which makes them particularly susceptible to the occupational hazards associated with handling mercury. 

    Few dental workers employed by pro-mercury dentists are given protective garb or air masks to minimize their exposure to mercury.  After all, they would look like astronauts with all that protective gear and that would scare off the patients (who have every right to be scared of mercury).  Many dental workers are not even aware of the risks of occupational mercury exposure.  As a result, dental workers have reported serious health problems – especially reproductive failures and birth defects caused by amalgam in the workplace.

  4. Dental mercury endangers our oral health

    On top of all the neurological, reproductive, and environmental harm caused by amalgam, it turns out that amalgam even endangers our oral health.

    As a primitive filling material, amalgam can be detrimental to oral health.  It is well known that placing amalgam requires the removal of a significant amount of healthy tooth matter.  This removal, in turn, weakens overall tooth structure which increases the need for future dental work.  On top of that, amalgam fillings, which expand and contract over time, crack teeth and create the need for still more dental work. 

    Superior modern alternatives preserve healthy tooth structure and actually strengthen teeth, leading to better oral health and less extensive dental work over the long-term.   

What are the alternatives to amalgam?

Amalgam is interchangeable with numerous other filling materials – including resin composites and glass ionomers – that have rendered amalgam completely unnecessary for any clinical situation.  Always choose non-mercury fillings! 

Where can I find more information about dental mercury dangers?