What Impact Can Dental Practices Have on the Environment?
Dental professionals have used silver fillings, also known as dental amalgam, for over one hundred years. Dental amalgam lasts a long time, hardens quickly, and is generally less expensive than other cavity filling methods. Amalgam fillings contain around 50% mercury and a combination of other metals such as silver, tin, and copper. Mercury is classified as a potent neurotoxin, but it forms a safe, stable material when combined with other metals. When a dental professional adds a new filling, the particles from the amalgam can enter waterways and cause a range of adverse effects on humans and wildlife if not correctly disposed of.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that dental clinics are the primary source of mercury discharges to sewage treatment centers. The EPA also considers mercury pollution to be a global concern. As a result, dental offices are required to use low-cost amalgam separators to effectively recycle any toxic materials from the amalgam and prevent mercury from entering the environment.