According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dental amalgam constitutes a potentially significant source of exposure to elemental mercury, with estimates of daily intake from amalgam restorations ranging from 1 to 27 μg/day. Also, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggested that exposure to mercury may have long-term health effects like many chronic diseases are characterized by long latency periods of 20 – 30 years or longer.
Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, liquid (elemental) mercury (50%) and powdered alloy silver, tin and copper. It is used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. You and your dentist should decide on which dental filling is appropriate for the person. Under appropriate safety conditions the dentist may take out the procedures for the amalgam putty. Before choosing amalgam as treatment options for dental filling, few benefits and risks to keep in mind.
Benefits of dental amalgam:
- Strong and long lasting compared to other fillings
- Good for patients who have high risk of tooth decay, especially for the tooth to bond with materials that are difficult with the moisture
- Least expensive type of filling material
- Used for more than 150 years in hundreds of millions of patients all over the world
Potential risks of dental amalgam:
- Contains elemental mercury which releases low levels of mercury in vapor form that can be inhaled and absorbed by lungs
- Exposure to high levels of mercury has been associated with adverse effects on the brain and the kidney
- Developing foetuses and young children are more prone to neurotoxic of mercury vapor
- Some people may have an allergy to mercury or other components of dental amalgam (silver, copper or tin), in this case you can discuss other treatment options with your dentist
- High risk populations include pregnant women, women planning to be pregnant, nursing women, children <6 years old, people with pre-existing neurological disease, people with impaired kidney function and people sensitive to dental amalgam (The FDA strongly encourages the use of non-amalgam restoration fillings)
Also, FDA does not recommend anyone remove or replace existing amalgam fillings in good condition unless it is considered medically necessary by the health care professional in case of hypersensitivity.
Dr Madhvi T., Health Officer, IEH (Institute of Ergonomics and Hygiene), London