Mercury fillings, or dental amalgams, have been used in dentistry for the past 150 years. But only in the past few years, concern has been raised over their safety – some claim that mercury fillings are highly toxic to the human body, while others claim they’re perfectly safe. So which is it?
The Mercury Fillings Controversy
The cheap and widely used dental fillings sometimes also called “silver fillings”, are actually a combination of different materials – silver, mercury, copper, tin, zinc – but metal mercury is the one under fire for its supposed toxic effects on the human body.
Although mercury naturally occurs in nature, which makes us all exposed to it through air, water and food, in high amounts, it really is dangerous to human health. In fact, it can even be deadly. The problem with mercury is that it builds up in body organs, leading to various health issues. This metal has been associated with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, infertility, autoimmune disorders, autism spectrum disorder, depression, anxiety and other health problems.
But does it represent a problem in dental fillings?
In the past, mercury fillings were thought to be inert, meaning not capable of releasing mercury once placed in teeth. But recent studies have shown that dental amalgams do indeed release small amounts of mercury vapor as the filling wears though chewing and age.
Whether “small amounts” of mercury vapor are really dangerous, is ultimately a question. Many researchers claim that the amount of mercury released through amalgam fillings is so little that it cannot represent any real danger to human health. In fact, some research shows that the amount of mercury that most people are exposed to through everyday activities (food, water, air) is higher than that released from mercury fillings.
Reduce The Amount Of Mercury You’re Exposed To
Although mercury fillings may pose no danger to human health on their own, it’s true we’re all supposed to reduce the amount of mercury we’re exposed to. Some things we can control, such as avoiding fish high in mercury, and some we cannot, such as the air we breathe. But mercury fillings? No matter how small the amount of mercury vapor that gets released from amalgam fillings, it adds up – in other words, if you can avoid it, do it.
Today, tooth-colored materials can be used to repair teeth, and not only do they look better, they’re safer. Many countries are moving away from mercury fillings and you can now even hear some dentists advising against them.
The conclusion? Thanks to a body of growing evidence, we now know that mercury fillings release small amounts of mercury vapor, so it’s best to avoid them and opt for safer dental fillings that do not contain mercury.