Are Silver Dental Fillings Toxic Or Dangerous?

February 13, 2011

Dear EarthTalk: Are silver dental fillings, which contain mercury, toxic?

Despite their name, “silver” fillings are actually composed of about 50 percent mercury and 30 percent silver, with the remaining components divided among copper, tin, zinc and sometimes cadmium. Dozens of Americans have complained that the fillings have damaged their health through mercury poisoning, from causing shortness of breath, loss of energy, memory damage and even partial paralysis.

Silver fillings, which are also called amalgam, are cheap and easy to install, and the American Dental Association (ADA) reports that 76 percent of dentists use them. Although the ADA concedes that “a very small number of people” are allergic to the fillings, the group staunchly maintains, “Studies have failed to find any link between amalgam restorations and any medical disorder.”

The ADA has long claimed that mercury remains chemically locked within the “extremely stable” fillings, but according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Very small amounts are slowly released from the surface of the filling due to corrosion or chewing or grinding motions.” Although the agency agrees with the ADA that there is not yet scientific agreement on whether this exposure actually does cause health problems, it suggests that fillings may be risky for pregnant women, children and those with impaired kidney or immune function.

The citizen group, Consumers for Dental Choice, argues that mercury fillings do pose a significant threat to public health, and they are campaigning to end the practice. And despite strong industry opposition, Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA) introduced still-pending legislation in April 2002 that would ban all mercury-based dental amalgam within five years.

CONTACT: American Dental Association, www.ada.org; Consumers for Dental Choice, (202) 462-8800, www.swankin-turner.com/projects.html

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About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (4)

  1. Marie @ Awakeatheart says:

    Yes, but if the new epoxy dental filling materials are full of BPA, what’s the choice?

  2. If mercury based amalgams are banned what options do we have? I agree with Marie-there doesn’t seem to be a good option for fillings that is cost effective. Another issue-many people are having their silver fillings replaced with the white (BPA) fillings for aesthetic reasons. This replacement releases mercury into our system.

  3. The Ingredient Detective says:

    You may have already seen this video showing mercury vapour being released from a tooth. It’s excellent, but very disturbing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ylnQ-T7oiA

    I was doing some research here in Australia, looking at the Poisons schedule. Mercury is listed as a Schedule 7 poison (along with synthetic fluoride, and arsenic), yet mercury that is used in amalgum fillings is exempted from this classification…This makes no sense!!! Gosh. The more research I do, the less faith I have in any government department.

  4. Tara says:

    I have 4 large silver fillings I’ve had since I was little. I’m 35 now. My dentist wants to replace them with the newer materials but it will cost a lot of money. Sure, they’re making me stupid, but they do last a long time. They’re way more durable than the others. At least as I’ve seen. That said, if my kids ever need any, I’ll not let them get the mercury ones.