Mercury Fillings Affecting Dentists

Once again more research has surfaced regarding the health concerns associated with silver dental restorations.

In the May issue of The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Scottish researchers studied 180 dentists. The investigators found the dentists had up to four times the normal level of mercury in their urine and nails and had more kidney disorders and memory lapses than the general public. The results of psychomotor skills, response times, word recall and health problems of the 180 dentists was significantly different than the equal number of non-dentists.

Silver dental fillings, also called amalgams, have been used in dentistry for over 100 years. They contain 50% mercury, 35% silver and 15% mixed other metals. Some dentists, doctors and researchers believe that fillings can give off harmful vapours, which are inhaled, swallowed and absorbed into the body. These vapours are measurable with specific instrumentation. Recent research has also shown that the nerves of the teeth and face can also wick up the mercury directly into the brain in a process called “retrograde axonal nerve transport”. Critics of the fillings claim the mercury can lead to significant health problems affecting virtually any organ in the body.

Opponents to this view of thought say that there is no proof that relates amalgams to any health problem. They also refer to the 100 plus year history of use and claim that the mercury remains bound in the teeth. The durability of amalgams is also highlighted as a major benefit for its use.

The whole mercury issue regarding dental amalgams and health has been fraught with controversy, bias and denial. It is a scientific fact that mercury is toxic to humans. A majority of all mined mercury goes into the dental field. Many countries and dentists are moving away from the use of this restoration material in favour of more biocompatible alternatives such as pure gold, porcelain, ceramic and plastics. Unfortunately, no material is perfect as compared to the normal dental enamel.

This issue is most likely a liability problem for dental associations than a public health one. It is time that this topic be fully evaluated and changed for the good of the dentists’ health and their patients too.


Copyright © 2003 by Dr. Garrett G. Swetlikoff