Are silver mercury fillings harmful?

Silver fillings/amalgam restorations have been heavily debated for decades and used for over 150 years. Dental amalgam has been known to be blamed for a wide range of health issues including autism and cancer. However the Australian Dental Association as well as the WHO (World Health Organisation) still report that there are no proven health issues associated with the use of dental amalgam.

Research still supports dental amalgam to be a great material for use in back teeth (molars). The WHO cites a paper where it has been proven that white fillings require up to 7 times more repair in posterior sites than silver fillings.

While it is true that dental amalgam contains Mercury, when mixed with other metals it forms a very stable form that releases negligible amounts of mercury vapour to the environment that is below the recommended levels set by health organisations.

It has been suggested that the consumption of high mercury fish (e.g.. flake, tuna, swordfish) leads to ingestion of much higher levels of mercury than that consumed from amalgam fillings.

Very rarely it is possible to be allergic to dental amalgam (there are less than 100 reported and documented cases ). This allergy may be caused by any of the components of amalgam (eg silver, copper, tin, Mercury etc) should allergy testing prove a true allergy, alternative filling materials should be used.

As a dentist, the decision of what material we choose to place in patients mouths depends largely on your risk of decay and the size of the cavity. All materials have their advantages and disadvantages and the best material for each filling varies. Rest assured that the people most concerned with the safety of the materials we use is the dental industry and dentists ourselves. Firstly as health practitioners, dentists follow the Hippocratic oath of “first do no harm” and secondly using amalgam as an example, as users of the material we are at most risk of harm from potential Mercury vapour. Therefore, should any reputable health standard governing body suggest that it is no longer safe to use any of the materials on the market in dentistry, rest assure that we will be the first to find out and the first to let our patients know.

Hope this puts your mind at ease 

Dr. Jess BDSc. (Melb.) (Hons.)

Oak Tree Ballarat Dental