Although scientific evidence does support the use of amalgam fillings, there has been research that contradict the same. The following Buzzle article discusses the safety aspects of dental amalgam.
Did You Know?
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are the 3 countries of Scandinavia that have outlawed the use of amalgam fillings due to their high mercury content.
Dental decay that causes cavities in the affected tooth are often filled with dental amalgam. This restorative material is strong and long-lasting, making it popular among the dental fraternity. The mercury present in the dental fillings is a blend of copper, silver, and mercury that has been made use of for more than 150 years. However, this mixture of amalgam containing 50% mercury (a toxic element) has raised concerns over its usage as a dental restorative material. Exposure to mercury has been linked to various health problems―from multiple sclerosis to Alzheimer’s disease and cancer―and other side effects such as muscle weakness and headache. With mercury being the main component of dental amalgam, its safety has come under scrutiny.
The use of amalgam fillings is backed by the American Dental Association (ADA), the U.S. Public Health Service, the USFDA, and the European Commission (EC) as there is no evidence that suggests health issues are strongly connected to the exposure to dental amalgam. Quite a few studies have been conducted to evaluate the safety of amalgam fillings. The results have been extensively reviewed by the aforementioned organizations, only to find inadequate data to correlate amalgam fillings with health issues.
Life Sciences Research Office (LSRO), a non-profit organization, also assessed scientific data published from 1996 to 2003, regarding the role of dental amalgam in causing serious health issues. Individuals with amalgam fillings who reported health-related problems did not show high mercury levels in urine. Moreover, the effects from mercury exposure were very specific, whereas those reported from individuals were very vague. The findings clearly indicated no conclusive evidence about mercury in fillings and its link to ailments reported by individuals. From the results evaluated, the USFDA has approved the usage of dental amalgam.
Mercury Absorption Rate: The fear that amalgam fillings emit mercury vapors that are toxic to the human body is unwarranted. Yes, elemental mercury is a health hazard, but that does not mean fillings that comprise 50% of mercury are a health concern. People often equate the mercury found in fish with the one used in dentistry and conclude it to be unsafe. Firstly, exposure to mercury by consuming fish is worrisome as it can get easily absorbed. However, the sequestered mercury in the fillings has a very low absorption rate. The mercury embedded in the dental amalgam is less reactive. So, there is no possibility of neurological problems from mercury contained in amalgam fillings.
Emission and Exposure: The emission of mercury vapors that increase as the number of amalgam fillings increase, isn’t a cause for concern.
- A growing body of evidence clearly indicates that the concentration of mercury vapors, even after fixing a whopping 15 amalgam fillings, is far below the levels that can cause health problems.
- Usually, 7 amalgam fillings are needed for correcting dental problems, which is equivalent to exposure to 1 microgram of mercury daily. Also, environmental exposure contributes to 6 micrograms of mercury.
- Studies show that around 265 to 300 amalgam fillings need to be placed in the oral cavity to experience the effects of mercury poisoning. So, mercury toxicity from dental amalgam is only a figment of imagination that needs to be debunked immediately. Mercury levels temporarily do rise in the oral activity while fixing and removing the amalgam fillings, but that too is not a cause for concern.
A Swedish research that assessed autopsy reports observed a strong association between the amount of mercury present in the kidneys and the number of amalgam fillings added in the oral cavity. However, autopsy studies are never taken into consideration when evaluating mercury levels in the body.
Skeptics, however, are far from convinced about the safety of amalgam fillings, despite repeated assurances from the ADA and the FDA. They believe that long-term exposure to mercury from dentistry is a major source of this toxic metal. For instance, there is evidence that amalgam fillings that were placed 15 years ago continue to emit mercury vapors. So, the amount of mercury released for such a long time certainly cannot be underestimated, and in fact, could be majorly adding to the burden of mercury exposure from environmental factors. The habit of grinding your teeth or chewing also releases mercury vapors, albeit in small amounts.
Also, 2009 findings reported in the Chemical Research in Toxicology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, approximate that up to 95% of mercury gets dissipated from older amalgam fillings. Certainly, this mercury does not vanish, but leaks into the oral activity and eventually passes into the bloodstream. Although the kidneys do help in filtering the mercury, the one that is not eliminated stays in the fatty tissues of the body.
In the book It’s All in Your Head by Dr. Huggins, the author also mentions that mercury from dental amalgam can get converted into methyl mercury, the one found in fish. In the oral cavity, the presence of bacteria and carbon-hydrogen compound may lead to methylation of mercury. Although this methyl mercury formed isn’t substantial, it only adds to the buildup of toxicity in the body.
Despite scientific evidence showing that dental amalgam is not dangerous, the controversy surrounding the amalgam fillings seems to be growing. Considering the conflicting results that are against the use of dental amalgam, in case you are not comfortable fixing amalgam fillings, using composite resin or porcelain fillings is recommended.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.