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Amalgam or ‘silver’ fillings have been the mainstay of modern dentistry ever since the mid 1800’s. They are inexpensive, easy to place and last a long time. However, even when they were first introduced there was controversy as to whether or not they should be used. The problem with amalgam fillings according to many is that they contain up to a half gram or 50% mercury per filling. They are not a true alloy but an amalgamation of metals that can release small amounts of mercury during chewing and when eating warm or hot foods.

For a long time the American Dental Association maintained that mercury was not released from silver fillings. Now it is generally known that a filling does release mercury, up to 10-15 micrograms per day. Now the ADA position highlights the fact that amalgam fillings have 150 years of successful use in the profession and all during that time there has been little peer review research showing that the mercury released from these fillings causes any sort of disease state or builds up to a toxic level in the body. In fact the ADA maintains that there is little to no risk inherent in placing and keeping these fillings except in cases of allergy, which is extremely rare. Additionally the ADA stance is that it is professionally questionable to replace them at all, because the aggressive nature of dental treatment necessary to replace them risks tooth damage and root canals.

The Environmental Protection Agency has maintained that mercury in small amounts is a very toxic substance and an environmental hazard. The State of California regulates the use of toxic substances in the workplace and has mercury on its list of substances that cause birth defects. The World Health Organization has stated that there are no safe levels of mercury when it comes to the human body. The quote that follows came from a 2005 report, “Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.” At the same time, however, the W.H.O. sets the toxic threshold for mercury toxicity at a high enough level as to all but eliminate amalgam fillings as a source of mercury poisoning.