The safety of the mercury contained within dental amalgam has been debated for many years and its use is now prohibited in some countries, for example Sweden. Although no scientific evidence has yet conclusively proved the risk to health.
As mercury has been used as an ingredient in dental fillings since the early 19th century, it should perhaps thus be accepted that it is entirely safe for this purpose. This is also the consideration of the BDA (British Dental Association) who feel it to be an excellent material to be used for this purpose due to its strength and longevity.
At the same time though, there is sufficient commentary in the public domain which might indicate that things may not be quite as certain as they might seem.
In fact, outside of dentistry, it is widely accepted that mercury is a highly toxic substance.
One widely held concern is that removing mercury may even lead to ‘leakage’, suggesting that it may be best left untouched or as a minimum, handled using special precautions.
Although the BDA suggests that the use of amalgam fillings is currently safe, there are a number of people for whom mercury may create significant problems. As it is impossible, in nearly all cases, to determine who may or may not be sensitive to mercury before it is placed.
We will however, continue to remove our patient’s amalgam fillings safely and effectively before replacing with an alternative where needed. Interestingly, it seems that whilst the BDA suggests that mercury is safe; as dentists we are not allowed to simply ‘dispose of’ any removed amalgam and it has to be stored safely and collected by a specialist company.
For a while, alternatives to amalgam were deemed inferior, but with advances in dentistry, there are now alternatives to mercury based fillings which are equally strong with significantly more aesthetic appeal too. With an estimated 2 million people in the UK thought to be sensitive to mercury, we feel that these alternatives should be much more widely used and are therefore playing our small part in this revolution in dental care.
Please note, all opinions expressed here are those of Dental Sense in line with those of the IAOMT and not those of the GDC or BDA. Your are encouraged to read more about the subject and to form your own opinions.