The controversy that exists over the use of mercury in dental amalgam is based on a number of factors relative to its toxicity to the environment and humans. There have been numerous documented cases regarding allergic reactions to mercury that people have experienced. However, the ADA (American Dental Association) contends that the number of these cases numbers fewer than 100. However, there are alternative filling materials that can be used for those who are allergic to the metal.
Toxicity in HumansResearch has concluded that pregnant women should avoid getting their teeth filled with amalgam until after they have given birth because of its ability to cross the placenta. As was mentioned above, there are alternative filling materials that can be substituted. There are also concerns related to how much mercury the body absorbs no matter what the source. So if there is a high degree of exposure to mercury, it is recommended that you don’t have cavities filled with amalgam materials.
So the question remains. If, according to the FDA, it is safe to use amalgam, why are dentists cautious about handling it? There are certain safety precautions that dentists have to take because they are exposed to amalgam materials literally every day. If a dentist doesn’t protect himself or herself, they can inhale the vapors that mercury emits. Over time, prolonged exposure to mercury vapors can produce toxicity symptoms. To make amalgam, liquid mercury is mixed with copper, silver, and zinc powders.
Environmental ToxicityMercury is naturally found in our environment but it is the elemental form of it that is used in amalgam fillings. Organic and inorganic mercury are the two forms that are most commonly found in the environment. While the majority of the environmental mercury is attributed to soil erosion and volcanic emissions, the ever-increasing levels experienced over the past centuries are a direct result of human activity. It is widely used throughout several industries which has resulted more mercury polluting the air.
Mercury is commonly used in cosmetics and medicinal compounds as well as dental amalgam. Furthermore, the organic form of mercury, or methylmercury, has been accumulating in the marine food chain for decades. The problem with the mercury that is used in dental amalgam is that it can end up in the atmosphere, ground water, soil, and surface water. For instance, it gets into the air and soil from burials and cremations while it gets into wastewater when dentists dispose of it.
Be sure that check with your dentist regarding amalgam fillings and whether or not you might be allergic to mercury. Remember, there is a variety of alternative materials that do not cause any toxic side effects and can be used to fill cavities safely.