Imtiaz Ibne Alam
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Exposure Risk: Is Mercury in Dental Amalgam Actually Safe?

amalgam filling

About This Article

First of all, since I'm not a dentist, I am apologizing for an technical mistakes in this article! However, there's a good reason I'm writing this. I recently had a dental appointment, and after looking at my wisdom teeth, the dentist recommended amalgam fillings. Curiously, I later googled about dental amalgam and saw a lot of debates about its safety. So, I decided to dig dipper!

After looking up its side effects in PubMed, I discovered that even the Wikipedia entry and other reliable sources were missing some key details. I consequently made the decision to write an article about dental amalgam fillings.

In normal conditions, when patients are told about a treatment option, the first thing they ask is whether it is safe. In the same way, if your dentist is suggesting a dental amalgam, you are probably wondering if it is safe or not. Accordingly, this article is written to answer this question, and other concerns that you might have about amalgam fillings.

What is Dental Amalgam?

Dental amalgam is a type of dental filling that seals the cavity resulted from tooth decay. An amalgam usually includes a combination of metals, but it is mainly made of four components: silver, mercury, copper and tin. However, some amalgam fillings also contain a small amount of zinc, indium or palladium. Liquid (elemental) mercury accounts roughly 50% of an amalgam filling; it helps bind other ingredients together.

READ: Four Wisdom Tooth Impactions and What They Mean

Potential Risks

Like any other product, it is the ingredients that determine whether a certain product is safe or not. Before you decide to get amalgam fillings, it is essential that you have a basic understanding about their ingredients, particularly about their mercury content.

According to experts, mercury is one of the most toxic, harmful substances to health and the environment. It is a very powerful neurotoxin and if used in large quantities, it has been known to cause neurological issues and kidney failure. It is linked to conditions like mental disorders, auto immune diseases and chronic illnesses among others. As a result, many experts and dentists are not willing to use these elements to their patients.

Dental Amalgam Controversy

The safety of dental amalgam is a bit controversial. And, the biggest question and controversy over amalgam fillings revolve around the fact that they contain mercury. While supporters claim them to be safe and effective, critics argue that they're risky because they may result mercury poisoning. The regulatory bodies in different countries also have mixed views about amalgam fillings. For example, while the FDA still considers dental amalgam safe for adults and children (age six years and above), in countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway, the use of amalgam fillings has already been banned.

Therefore, despite the controversy and debate about mercury use, the real question that you should be asking is whether the mercury in amalgam fillings is that harmful. In other words, are the quantities of mercury in the fillings enough to cause such serious side effects and conditions?

Experimental studies done to answer this question have found that dental amalgam releases mercury in the form of a vapor. Although it is not confirmed that whether this vapor can cause serious side effects, but there is no doubt that your lungs can inhale and absorb it. In addition, studies done on animals have indicated that amalgam fillings in pregnant and lactating women may lead the fetus and neonates to unwanted risk of mercury exposure.

ALSO READ: Dental Routine: 10 Tips for a Bright and Healthy Smile
An Interesting Fact
It was revealed in 2006 that over 76% of people in the United States of America did not know of the dangers or contents of amalgam fillings. This goes to show that not many people are concerned about what their health professionals are giving them. Many people are not even bothered to know what is contained in the fillings in their teeth.

Conclusion

The debate over the safety of dental amalgam can be traced all the way back to when the fillings were first introduced. You should, therefore, take comfort in the fact that you are not the first person to question the safety of amalgam fillings and will probably not be the last. However, I think the best way to answer this question is by asking another.

Are you willing to take the chance?

I don't think you have any reason to take the risk if there is even a slight chance for you to be exposed to mercury. Keep in mind that once your dentist places the amalgam fillings, they will remain in your teeth for some time. And it goes without saying that this will prolong and increase your exposure to mercury.

Image Source: By Kauzio (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.