Health Team

FDA reviews safety of tooth fillings containing mercury

Posted December 17, 2010

Ross Prevett has suffered with allergies for most of his life. He says he started breathing a whole lot easier after he had his silver fillings taken out.

"As the days rolled on, my sinuses just kept getting clearer, much less symptoms -- no sneezing, runny nose," Prevett said.

Amalgam dental fillings are made of liquid mercury and a mixture of powdered metals, including silver, tin and copper.

For decades there has been a debate over whether the fillings are safe. A year and a half ago, the FDA ruled the fillings safe, but an advisory panel met recently to review the scientific evidence again.

Consumer advocacy groups claim mercury can trigger health problems from neurological disorders to breathing issues and even heart disease.

"Mercury is considered hazardous before it goes in the mouth. It has to be disposed of as hazardous waste when it comes out of the mouth. Why would it be safe in the mouth?" asked dentist Dr. Mark Breiner.

But the American Dental Association stands by the fillings, which have been used in the U.S. for more than 50 years. The group says tens of millions of Americans have used the fillings and never had a problem.

Numerous studies show the level of mercury in amalgams is too low to cause health problems.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with the use of amalgams," said Dr. David Tarrab, of the New York University College of Dentistry.

Most dentists are now using white composite to fill teeth because it looks better; but amalgam is still popular because it is cheaper.

The FDA advisory panel isn't looking to ban the fillings, but consumer advocates are hoping for restrictions on their use in pregnant women and children.

Ross Prevett believes getting rid of his silver fillings improved his health dramatically.

Several countries in Europe already ban or restrict the use of amalgams.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • russellb2 Dec 22, 2010

    This article might as well have been written by my 12 year old niece. Did the author do any more research than a google search for "amalgam"? It seems unlikely. This so called debate has been going on for years...and every time the ADA, the NIH, and the most respected dental schools in the country spend millions to study amalgam's effects the results come back the same - it's safe. Your exposure to mercury is much greater when eating fish than if you had every single one of your teeth restored with amalgam. Studies have actually revealed several cases where systemically unhealthy patients improved after their amalgam restorations were removed and replaced with resin fillings. Then, shortly after, they got sicker than before. Why? The additional amalgam exposure during the removal of the fillings actually improved their symptoms. Purplerado clearly can't read - there is no profit motive for amalgam. Dentists can charge more for the tooth colored composite resin fillings.

  • x138GMOU Dec 22, 2010

    To say that a dentist is more exposed simply because he is handling the material (with gloves)than a person that inserts the material in direct contact with the blood stream over a long period of time is a bit far-fetched. And we cannot just summarily dismiss the profit motive as that was cited as the only advantage to the amalgam filling. The medical profession as a whole is a lot more profit driven than it was in my childhood. I agree that you have to take your health in your own hands when doctors don't listen.

  • jbarbaro Dec 22, 2010

    Is it possible this man's health problems are related to his amalgam fillings? Yes, it's possible; but in my opinion it’s highly unlikely. After reading this article I was only able to make one conclusion. This is LAZY JOURNALISM at its best. At its worst, it's presenting a case report as grounds to make possible sweeping conclusions. There are also case reports that some individuals have had success treating cancer with a holistic approach. However, I doubt the author of this article would recommend such treatment to his mother if she were afflicted with such a disease. I also doubt he would find such reports worth investigating. If he had done any research on toxicity of mercury in amalgam, I suspect he would have felt the same about this article.

  • jbarbaro Dec 22, 2010

    A little information/education for the author: Are you aware that fluoride, a component in your toothpaste and your city drinking water, is widely accredited for the great reduction in cavities in the last 50 years. Are you also aware that if you were to eat several tubes of toothpaste, you could die from a toxic overdose of fluoride? My obvious point: Too much of anything can kill you; however, our exposure to small doses of most “toxic substances” is below any threshold to cause harm.
    Is mercury toxic? Absolutely. Does it pose a threat to our health at the extremely small doses in amalgam fillings? All evidence would indicate that it does not. Are you also aware that there is mercury in fish? Can that cause a lifetime of allergies too? I thought fish was one of the healthiest things you could eat, but now maybe I should be concerned. Another question. If mercury in amalgam is so toxic, that why aren’t Dentists dropping like flies.

  • jbarbaro Dec 22, 2010

    The dentists who place and replace amalgam fillings on a daily basis are surely exposed to much more mercury than the patients, so why aren’t they suffering obvious symptoms? I would love a response to these questions. As a journalist, you get paid to do a job and to inform the public. You may want to return any wages you made for publishing this article because you certainly didn’t do your job.

    And to the child who posted the comment below. "You have to educate yourself and be your own physician when the medical system itself is so corrupt because of the profit motive. Mercury is one of the most dangerous substances on the planet.." What is profit motive regarding amalgam? It's the cheapest filling material available and it lasts significantly longer than composite ("white fillings"). Good luck as you continue trying to "educate" yourself. It doesn't appear to be going so well at the moment.

  • purplerado Dec 20, 2010

    "the American Dental Association...says tens of millions of Americans have used the fillings and never had a problem." Here is the insanity that we are up against people. You can go to your doctor for a problem and he will shrug as he writes the prescription saying, "we just don't know what causes this". They have been able to get away with ignoring and dismissing the evidence that is out there of the connection between having mercury in your head and a host of health issues, and because they government backs them up, there is no money to actually study the connection. I can tell you I am doing a whole lot better since I got that stuff out of my head finally, but who's listening? Who cares? You have to educate yourself and be your own physician when the medical system itself is so corrupt because of the profit motive. Mercury is one of the most dangerous substances on the planet and it absolutely does get into the bloodstream to cause harm; there is plenty of evidence if you look.

  • j-lo93 Dec 20, 2010

    will we ever know the truth? geez.