Are dental amalgams, also known as “silver fillings” safe? There has been a lot of debate through the years on the safety of amalgams due to their high mercury content within the material. Mercury is a metal that is naturally formed in the earth. There have been several health related problems associated with high dose or chronic exposure to mercury. However, certain forms of mercury are more dangerous than others. In fact, elemental and methylmercury are the two main forms that are associated with the dangers. Other forms of mercury, such as ethylmercury or mercury in its alloy state are thought to be not as problematic.
While I could present a lot of science behind the findings, I will save you the boredom and say that the following groups have found dental amalgams to be safe based on available scientific studies: Alzheimer’s Association, International Journal of Dentistry, the Lupus Foundation of America, the Mayo Clinic, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Council Against Health Fraud, The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the New England Journal of Medicine, the U.S Food and Drug Administration, and ( everyone’s favorite web source to self diagnose) WebMD. You can get more information here from the American Dental Association website by clicking HERE.
On a side note, one of the most prevalent ways to be exposed to the dangerous mercury is by eating seafood. Fish filter mercury in the water and it is incorporated into the fish we may eat....and this is in the Methylated form that is dangerous.
Should we have the old fillings removed anyways? This is always a debate as well. Cutting on the fillings produces heat, which results in mercury vapor, which is one of the more toxic forms of mercury. Therefore, some think removing them could be riskier than leaving them, while others worry about long term low level leakage of mercury from the fillings. Again, science says they are safe to use and removal when needed poses little risk as well.
Our thoughts: we feel confident that it is a safe material to use for dental restorations and do use it on occasion when we feel it is the best, or sometimes only material that will work. However, we also feel it is good to limit potential exposures to mercury if there are other safer materials to use. The removal of mercury fillings has long been linked to the increase in mercury levels in our waterways, so reducing the use of amalgam fillings is still probably a good idea overall.