The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally admits that mercury in dental fillings may be harmful to pregnant women, children, fetuses, and people who are especially sensitive to mercury exposure. Following a lawsuit settlement, the FDA has issued a statement on its website that “[d]ental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses.”
In addition to revising its website statements, the FDA re-opened rulemaking to evaluated potential controls on mercury fillings. The controls are to be issued by July 2009.
For years, the FDA has asserted that mercury dental amalgam is safe. Mercury dental amalgam is that silver looking material used to fill cavities. It is made of liquid mercury and a powder containing silver, tin, copper, zinc and other metals. Mercury concentration in dental amalgams is generally about 50% by weight, while the silver concentration ranges from 20-35%.
Consumer health advocates have expressed concern about the presence of mercury in dental amalgams for years. Although the mercury is chemically bonded to the powdered silver, tin and zinc, some mercury vapor is released when the filling is placed, removed, and even during chewing. As we know, mercury is a potent neurotoxicant. It accumulates in the body and is toxic to the brain, the nervous system, and other organs. Of course, debate continues over how much exposure results in harm.
Nonetheless, mercury vapor from dental amalgam has been a concern. Although epidemiological studies and clinical trials have not connected amalgams to health problems, animal studies with mercury vapors have shown damaging effects. And, numerous human studies have shown that mercury in the blood, brain, and other tissues increases with the number of amalgam fillings.
So what can you do? There are options available. Of course, don’t skip dental care. But talk to your dentist about options if you need a cavity filled.
If you can, opt for an alternative filling material. If you can’t use an alternate material, then follow these recommendations to reduce exposure. During removal of the old amalgam, have the dentist use copious amounts of cold water irrigation to minimize heat, use a rubber dam to isolate the mouth from the particles, and use an alternate source of air (oxygen) to minimize mercury vapor inhalation
If you use an alternative filling material, make sure the resin doesn’t contain bisphenol A (BPA). Ask to see the MSDS for the filling materials. Look at the ingredients, and try to avoid BPA, bisphenol A diglycidyl ether, and bisphenol A dimethyl acrylate. The preferred ingredient seems to be bis-glycidyldimethacrylate because it does not appear to release BPA during use. Stumble It!