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FDA Update on Mercury Fillings

Last week, the FDA said that their advisory panel on the subject was about to report that mercury amalgam fillings were once again proven to be safe. The only problem was that the FDA’s own advisory panel did not agree. After an abundance of testimony on the subject, the advisory panel broke with a long-standing rubber stamp on this subject and is looking further into the matter.

The MSDS sheets that come with dental mercury amalgam state that the material should not be used on pregnant women. Haz Mat protocol requires that scrap amalgam be stored in a special liquid and removed by a toxic waste disposal service. According to government agencies, the only place mercury amalgam fillings are safe is in a patient’s mouth. So what should you do about this, if anything?

First of all, don’t panic. Many dentists are now trained to use newer materials that do not contain mercury. A growing number of dentists do not even have mercury amalgam on hand. For better or worse, the mercury in older fillings evaporates after a number of years and may no longer be in your mouth at all. Claims that your general health will improve if you remove your old mercury fillings may be exaggerated to say the least.

I am fortunate to have had training using non-mercury materials from the very beginning of my career. My very first job was in an office that had a mercury spill so they no longer used mercury dental amalgam. I haven’t used this material in a long time. In using the newer materials, I have found that they have advantages other than being mercury-free:

  • They cause less sensitivity.
  • They don’t expand and contract like metals so they’re less likely to break teeth.
  • They are dimensionally stable so they don’t leak.
  • They look more natural.

If you need new dental work, there are some good reasons to use these materials. In the mean time, it will be interesting to see what the final outcome will be with regard to the FDA’s position on mercury dental amalgam.