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Dental Amalgams: Are They Safe?

We don’t use dental amalgam here at our Valencia dentistry, Go Dental. Never have, and never will. I can’t remember the last time I placed one. We also have almost completely phased out the use of metal in our crowns and bridges, using it only in those areas where it can’t be replaced. We are nearly metal-free in our practice by choice. It was a choice based on real science showing the superiority of newer, more robust, more aesthetic materials. It was not a choice based on pseudoscience and fear.I was reminded recently of a classic (well, classic for dentists) video of the Director of the NIDCR, the dental division of the NIH, testifying before a Congressional subcommittee on the safety of dental amalgam.  He reached the point of exasperation while answering the repeated question “Is Mercury toxic?” by saying“Elemental Mercury is toxic.”

The questioner thought he was dodging the question because she didn't understand the answer.What the Congresswoman did not understand was the difference between an element and a component of a larger chemical compound. For example, elemental Sodium reacts violently and can cause an explosion when it contacts water. The element Chlorine is a poisonous gas used in the trenches of World War I. But,Sodium Chloride (Na Cl) is table salt.The same is true of dental amalgams. There is Mercury there, but it isn't going anywhere. For most people, the level of mercury exposure from erosion of existing dental fillings is less than you are exposed to from the environment (air pollution,tuna fish, etc.).

Many of our colleagues seem to be just as confused as the Congresswoman. We regularly see patients for second opinions who were told that all of their amalgams need to be replaced as soon as possible. If you want to transition to metal-free restorations, we are happy to help you here at Go Dental.  But the decision should be based on your needs and desires. I have 25+ year-old amalgams in my mouth that are staying as long as they are still in good condition. Other people might make a different choice, but it should be a choice. Don’t be bullied into making decisions about your healthcare.