BRUSSELS, Belgium: A new study, conducted on behalf of the European Commission, recommends phasing out dental amalgam use over the next few years owing to mercury’s negative impact on the environment. According to the recently published study results, the ban should be combined with improved enforcement of the EU waste legislation regarding dental amalgam.
Dental amalgam has been in use for over 150 years for the treatment of dental cavities and is still used by the majority of dentists. It is often felt that this is an ideal material because of its longevity but sometimes perhaps for the wrong reasons. There is an increased risk of fracturing the tooth with large amalgam fillings, as it is really just a metal block, which has been wedged into the teeth. The point here is that we are trying to save the teeth not the fillings.
Dental amalgam is a combination of different metals with about 50% mercury. It is estimated that many tens of tons of mercury are placed in people’s mouths through amalgam worldwide. It has been a controversial material ever since it was introduction due to its mercury content, and the controversy still rages both in the dental and in the public domain, resulting in a number of TV documentaries. Recent evidence that small amounts of mercury are continuously released from amalgam fillings has fuelled the controversy. According to Mutter (2011), dental amalgam is by far the main source of human total mercury body burden; this is proven by autopsy studies which found 2-12 times more mercury in body tissues of individuals with dental amalgam (results of autopsy studies are considered more valuable for examining the amalgam-caused mercury body burden than the analysis of mercury levels in urine and blood). Although there is some consensus on the fact that people with amalgam fillings are exposed to some mercury released from the amalgam, the magnitude of this exposure is subject to controversy.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF DENTAL AMALGAM
The main direct exposure pathway to inorganic Hg (acute exposure) in individuals having dental amalgams occurs during the placement or removal of the amalgam. The release rate of mercury vapour is dependent on several parameters, including: filling size, tooth and surface placement, chewing, hot beverages, food texture, tooth grinding, and brushing teeth, as well as the surface area, composition, and age of the amalgam. Moreover, mercury from amalgam may be transformed into organic mercury compounds by microorganisms in the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract.
Some scientists have observed that mercury concentrations in blood and urine do not adequately represent the mercury levels in body tissues. A number of experiments with animals and humans showed that despite normal or low mercury levels in blood, hair, and urine, high mercury levels were found in critical tissues like brain and kidney. For the living human being, who would rather not wait for the autopsy results, they can choose to undergo a Melisa test www.melisa.org. This is a blood test, which is carried out under very strict conditions to produce very accurate results.
We at Integrated Dentalcare have been a mercury-free clinic for the last 15 years. Over that period we have gained valuable experience in removing and replacing mercury fillings in a strict, controlled and safe environment which protects our clients as well as our team. This journey has been fueled by our personal desire to find safer and more biocompatible materials to reconstruct teeth. What we choose to put in people’s mouth may have an impact on that individual’s general health. After all the mouth is the opening into the rest of the body!
The European commission report can be view at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/Final_report_11.07.12.pdf