Did you know that a single amalgam filling releases an average of 10 micrograms of mercury daily? Or that dental amalgam contains 50% mercury? Despite all the known dangers of mercury, some people insist that amalgam isn’t a problem. You’ve probably heard the claims that “mercury released from amalgam is harmless” or “mercury becomes inert when released from other metals.” Some dentists even downplay the importance of a safe amalgam removal process.
This article explores the risk of mercury exposure and how you can minimize the risk during amalgam removal.
- What Is Dental Amalgam?
- How Does Mercury Exposure in Dental Fillings Occur?
- The Risks of Mercury Exposure During Amalgam Removal
- Visit a Dentist Who Practices Safe Amalgam Removal Procedures
What Is Dental Amalgam?
Dental amalgam is a silver-colored material used to fill cavities resulting from tooth decay. It’s made up of two equal parts:
- Liquid (elemental) mercury
- Powdered alloy composed of silver, copper, tin, and other metals
Approximately half (50%) of dental amalgam is elemental mercury by weight. Dental amalgam fillings are sometimes referred to as “silver fillings” because of their silver-like appearance, which is misleading. The use of this term is not recommended because it does not correctly explain the materials in amalgam.
How Does Mercury Exposure in Dental Fillings Occur?
Exposure to mercury can be caused by breathing in and swallowing the vapor during:
- Removal or placement of dental amalgam fillings
- Gum chewing and eating by people with dental amalgam fillings
- Teeth grinding by people who have dental amalgam fillings
Note that mercury can also pass from the mother to the baby during pregnancy. It’s important to understand that there are additional risks to mercury exposure other than having the filling removed. It’s no myth, dental mercury is a problem.
The Risks of Mercury Exposure During Amalgam Removal
A 2009 study published by the American Chemistry Society (ACS) found on average, dental amalgam can lose up to 95% of its mercury content over time. Where does all this mercury go? Some of it gets excreted, but no level of exposure to this toxic compound can be considered safe. The health risks are serious. The amalgam removal process releases mercury vapor into your mouth, which, if absorbed, increases the levels of mercury in your blood, brain, and urine. These levels can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs, and kidneys and may be fatal. Damaged fillings release even more mercury in your body than intact fillings.
Signs of damage to your fillings may include high sensitivity, pain while biting, and jagged edges on your teeth. When fillings become damaged (broken or cracked), bacteria can grow underneath, causing an infection that may result in painful abscesses.
The amalgam removal process exposes you to more elevated levels of mercury due to the mercury vapor released during the removal process. The risk is even higher if the process is completed by a dentist who isn’t adequately trained. Specialized amalgam removal uses modern technology to control the release of the vapor as your fillings are removed, allowing you to breathe 100% clean air during the procedure.
Visit a Dentist Who Practices Safe Amalgam Removal Procedures
The process involved in safely removing dental amalgam is complex. Having the process done by a dentist who is a SMART (Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique) certified by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable of the process is important for your health.
David Francis, DDS, in the Spring, Texas area, is a SMART biological dentist certified through the IAOMT. He is one of the few dentists in Texas with the knowledge and experience required to provide you with mercury-free, mercury-safe, and biological/biocompatible amalgam removal. Visit our website to learn more about safe amalgam filling removal.