The safety of mercury dental fillings, which are actually an amalgam of metals, including silver, tin, zinc, and copper along with about 50% mercury, is often debated. There are studies that show that the amount of mercury in the body of a person who has mercury dental fillings is significantly higher than mercury levels in people without these fillings. While mercury is known to be a toxic material that can cause serious mental health issues, there has been no study that conclusively proves that mercury dental fillings pose a threat to a person’s health.
The American Dental Association (ADA) continues to use mercury dental fillings for many patients. Officially, the position of the ADA is that these fillings are safe for patients and that the amount of mercury released into the bloodstream is not consequential. This organization has also requested that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not include a warning to patients outlining the potential dangers of mercury when they are considering whether or not to use these types of fillings.
Studies performed in the 2000s show that mercury dental fillings can release mercury into a person’s body when they are breathing and chewing. The fillings can also deteriorate over time, and break down more quickly as they do so. Despite these findings, studies have not shown any significant cognitive difference between adults with mercury dental fillings and those without. The results are the same in children, who are at the most risk from mercury poisoning.
The controversy over mercury dental fillings has led many people to opt for fillings made from resin instead of metal. Recent developments have made these fillings stronger and more durable than they used to be, though they still break down more frequently than mercury dental fillings. Resin fillings also have the benefit of being the same color as the tooth, which makes them nearly invisible. Additionally, resin fillings require that the dentist drill a smaller hole into the tooth when filling a cavity.
There are some patients who are concerned enough with mercury dental fillings that they chose to have these removed. This is not recommended by the ADA because it can lead to problems with the tooth if the filling is not extracted properly. People who continue to have concerns about mercury dental fillings can chose to have any subsequent fillings made out of resin instead of the metal amalgam, which is commonly available in most dental offices.