It’s a fact: at some point, you might need a dental filling. Depending on your needs, there are different types of fillings. Silver-colored tooth fillings, known as dental amalgam fillings, contain a mixture of metals, including mercury. If you have one of these, you may be concerned about your mercury exposure and wonder if you need a mercury detox. Here are the facts on mercury exposure and dental amalgam fillings.
Do You Need A Mercury Detox? The Facts About Amalgam And Mercury Exposure.
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
The metal alloy known as dental amalgam is one of the strongest and sturdiest materials used in tooth fillings. Amalgam is approximately 50% mercury, with tin, copper, and silver comprising the rest of the mixture. This type of filling is also known as a "silver filling" because of its silver-like appearance. Dentists have been using amalgam in fillings for more than 150 years in hundreds of millions of patients worldwide.
If you have one of these fillings, there's no need to worry. The FDA has determined that the low levels of mercury vapor emitted by dental amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children ages six and older.
While the developing neurological systems in fetuses and young children may be more sensitive to the effects of mercury vapor, the FDA found little to no clinical data regarding any long-term health effects of mercury on pregnant women, developing babies, or children under the age of six. Further, the amount of mercury found in mothers’ breast milk with amalgam fillings is very low. There is no evidence suggesting an association with breastfeeding mothers with amalgam fillings and dangerous mercury levels in breast milk.
Although amalgam fillings are safe for the vast majority of patients, some individuals may have an allergy or sensitivity to either mercury or one of the other metal components of dental amalgam. This may cause these individuals to develop lesions in their mouths, allergic reactions, or other side effects. In these cases, the FDA notes that dental professionals should use alternative materials.
There are three different types of mercury: elemental, inorganic, and organic. Elemental mercury, which dental professionals use in amalgam fillings, is also used in thermometers, electrical switches, fluorescent light bulbs, and some medical equipment. Inorganic mercury may be found in batteries, chemistry labs, and some disinfectants. Organic mercury can be found in older antiseptic formulas, fumes from burning coal, and fish that have eaten a form of organic mercury called methylmercury.
While it’s improbable you can get mercury poisoning from fillings—as the level of mercury exposure from dental fillings isn't a threat to your health—there are other circumstances where individuals may experience mercury poisoning. MedlinePlus reports that breathing in a large amount of elemental mercury can, in some cases, lead to a hospital stay.
Symptoms you could experience from excessive mercury exposure include:
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Bad cough
- Swollen, bleeding gums
- Burning in the throat and stomach
- Bloody diarrhea
A medical professional may take blood or urine tests and respiratory and blood pressure measurements to diagnose mercury poisoning. There are various methods a doctor can use to help a patient detox after mercury poisoning, and your treatment will differ depending on the type of exposure. Some treatment methods include consuming charcoal, receiving intravenous fluids, or having the mercury suctioned out of the lungs.
If you suspect that you may have mercury poisoning, go to your local emergency room. However, if you don't have mercury poisoning symptoms and are simply worried about a dental amalgam filling, rest assured that it is not a mercury poisoning source and does not require a mercury detox. If your filling is broken or defective, your dentist can also help you find a solution.
Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider.