Mercury fillings raise dental questions

Mercury fillings raise dental questions

It's known that exposure to high levels of mercury proves toxic, yet controversy surrounds the toxicity of mercury used in dental fillings.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury and powdered copper, silver and tin. This mixture forms putty used to fill cavities in the teeth.

Fifty percent of the putty is mercury, which is necessary for its ability to remain liquid at room temperature and its ability to bond with the powdered metals. The affordability and durability of this amalgam make it a popular choice for dental fillings.

The amalgam also increases the amount of mercury found in the body. Verification of this comes from analyzing mercury levels found in urine samples of a person compared with the amount of mercury fillings in the same person. The mercury level in urine increases with the amount of mercury fillings a person has. However, how dangerous is it?

According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a link exists between elemental mercury, which is the type used in dental amalgam, and illnesses that include memory loss, depression, fatigue and other neurological and behavioral disturbances.

However, also according to the CDC, the dental amalgam has such a low level of exposure that it has no neurological impact on adults or children over six years old.

The American Dental Association (ADA) reports concurrence with findings from the CDC. The ADA maintains their position that mercury fillings are safe in most people. The FDA further substantiate this belief, stating, removal of mercury fillings is not necessary except by persons showing an allergy or sensitivity to any component of the filling.

Removal of these fillings exposes people to the inhalation of mercury vapor, and it is from this vapor the danger of elemental mercury stems. Some mercury from the amalgam does leech into the body, but most mercury exits the body through urine and fecal elimination. While the fillings remains in the teeth, there is little danger from vapor inhalation.

While independent research points to mercury fillings as a health hazard, three large organizations – the ADA, the CDC, and the FDA – maintain the position that the low level of mercury in fillings negates the possibility of hazard resulting from high levels of exposure.

Consult a highly rated Boston dentist to help you decide what type of filling is right for you.

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Photo by Brandon Smith —  Dr. Jerry Nieten of Noblesville, Ind., says he utilizes a number of safety precautions to limit mercury exposure when removing amalgams.
Photo by Brandon Smith — Dr. Jerry Nieten of Noblesville, Ind., says he utilizes a number of safety precautions to limit mercury exposure when removing amalgams.

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