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Products Liability Newsletter

Amalgams - Does the Mercury in Dental Fillings Cause Harm?

Amalgams are a type of dental tooth filling which, unlike gold or porcelain fillings, contain mercury. In the past several years, the American Dental Association (ADA) and several state dental chapters have come under the attack of numerous lawsuits for supporting the continued use of amalgams. In addition, bills to ban the use of mercury have been introduced in Congress and in several state legislatures.

Amalgam-related lawsuits have rested on the criticism that the level of mercury present in amalgams causes harm, and have claimed that dentists often misrepresent amalgams as “silver” fillings. However, these types of lawsuits have continuously been dismissed for lack of scientific evidence connecting amalgams to harm.

Mercury-Containing Amalgams

Amalgams contain mercury, which can be toxic at high levels of exposure. Research concerning amalgam fillings has linked mercury to heart disease, trigeminal neuralgia, depression, kidney damage and hearing loss. Lawsuits in California and Georgia have even accused amalgams of causing autism. Supporters of eliminating amalgam fillings also cite concerns that the mercury in amalgam fillings may be released into the environment when bodies are cremated.

However, scientists have determined that it is safe to absorb up to 40 micrograms of mercury daily, and mercury absorption from amalgams is only from one to three micrograms daily.

Federal Organizations That Affirm the Use of Amalgam Fillings

Despite criticism that the mercury levels in amalgams can cause autism, autoimmune diseases and Alzheimer’s, the following federal organizations have systematically denied any scientific link between amalgams and harmful diseases:

  • The American Dental Association
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Consumers Union
  • World Health Organization
  • World Dental Federation
  • National Institutes of Health

Despite assertions from the foregoing organizations that amalgam fillings are safe, many still advocate phasing out the use of amalgam fillings. In March of 2007, a bill was introduced in Vermont which would require dentists to provide patients with a brochure containing information on amalgam alternatives and requiring dentists to secure a patient’s consent before proceeding with an amalgam filling. As of 2008, the use of dental amalgam has been restricted in the countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and a committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has refused to ratify assertions of the safety of dental amalgam.

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