Silver-Mercury Amalgam Dental Fillings: Should they be replaced?

mercury fillings and silver filling

Do you have silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings and wonder if you should replace them?

As a dentist in Lincoln, NE, I am  concerned about the overall well-being of patients, and in this article, I will share my thoughts on the safety and health risks of  silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings:

Biological dentist Dr Kathryn Alderman in Lincoln, NE.

Amalgams-silver dental fillings were a popular material in the past, and are still used by many dentists today because they are easy to place, hold up for a long time and are inexpensive. Due to the overwhelming amount of research on the health risks of silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings, they should not be placed. If they have to be removed, it has to be done very carefully to avoid causing acute metal toxicity in patients. “

–    Kathryn Alderman, DDS

Dr. Kathryn Alderman, Dentist in Lincoln, NE and Member of The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT)

Amalgam-mercury- silver dental fillings and reasons to replace your amalgam silver mercury dental fillings

Silver-Mercury Amalgam Dental Fillings Composition

Mercury comprises about 50% of the most common filling in the world called silver-mercury amalgam. Amalgam also contains copper, tin, silver, and zinc. Due to the high mercury content, it is silver colored when first placed; therefore, the name, “silver” filling. After it has been in the mouth, the mercury begins to react chemically and the resultant corrosion products are black. The blacker the filling, the more tarnish has taken place.

Silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings have an electrical current, which can be measured. The higher the current, the faster mercury is being released. As of 1976, the new ADA sponsored (and patent holder) high copper amalgam started taking over the market. Mercury is released 50 times faster from high copper amalgam (around 30%) over the “conventional” amalgam of before that time.

Currently, silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings contain around 48 to 51% mercury by weight. Copper comes in second, with the high copper amalgam now leading the market. Copper can be from 24 to 33% of the amalgam. The higher the copper level, the faster both mercury and copper are emitted from the fillings. If a gold crown is anywhere in the mouth, mercury comes off faster.

Image of a tooth with a silver dental filling.

Can Mercury leak from Silver-Mercury Amalgam dental fillings?

Yes, it is undeniably true that mercury vapor is released from silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings. Scientists have proven that mercury vapors are released from those fillings, putting patients at risk for developing health problems.  These mercury vapors readily pass through your cell membranes, across your blood-brain barrier, and into your central nervous system. This can cause psychological, neurological, and immunological problems.  Children and fetuses whose brains are still developing are most at risk, but anyone can be affected.

According to university studies done by Dr. Chew, over the first two years after placement, silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings release about 34 micrograms per filling (per square centimeter of filling exposed) per day. These tests were done on fillings sitting in pure water and tested daily. There are many things that increase the speed at which mercury comes out. As previously mentioned, other metals such as gold crowns, nickel crowns, and removable bridges will increase the speed of release. Chewing food also increases the emissions, dramatically. Hot liquids such as coffee also increase the release by thousands of a percent, but only for 10 or 15 minutes.

Abrasion from chewing gum increases the release by 1500% as published by the ADA. Abrasion during the grinding of teeth during waking or sleeping hours, called “bruxism,” also releases mercury vapor. Compression of the filling from chewing releases mercury into the mouth. The electrical charge on a filling gives us clues as to how fast mercury, copper and other metals are being released. The higher the current measured, the faster the mercury release. The total amount of mercury released is difficult to measure, but suffice it to say that the current measurements are adequate enough to know it can contribute significantly to disease processes. The actual total mercury release in a living human being with saliva (which has a much higher electrical potential with dissimilar metals than water) in a warm mouth with acidic foods, bruxism, chewing gum, eating foods and several hundred bacterial strains is greater than any of today’s estimates.

Image showing Periodontal Disease and Overall Health. Discuss how they are connected with your biological dentist in Lincoln, NE, Dr. Kathryn Alderman.

Can you have toxicity from Silver-Mercury Amalgam dental fillings?

Where does all of this mercury go? Into your body. Absorption of mercury from the area under your tongue and the insides of your cheeks are the fastest absorbers. These areas are in proximity to the fillings, so the efficiency of absorption is great. From these tissues, the mercury can destroy adjacent tissues, or travel to the lymphatic drainage system and directly into the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, mercury can go to any cell in the body, where it can either disable or destroy the tissues. Mercury can also move directly from the silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings into the lungs and or bloodstream. As previously described, every cell in the body can become a valid target.

Mercury and its compounds are adept at traveling through the “lipid-soluble” cells membranes. Cell membranes contain roughly 60% protein and 40% fat. Nerve cells are an exception, containing nearly 75% fat. These fat-rich membranes determine what enters the cell and what does not. Methylmercury is oxidized into the “ionic” form of mercury. This is a very destructive form of mercury. Methylmercury is the most dangerous form due to its ability to travel great distances and enter all cells. After the trip, it is converted into ionic form.

The ionic form is what disrupts internal structures and metabolic pathways that keep a cell alive, producing proteins, enzymes, and hormones that are the purpose of the existence of the cell. All of this travel and destruction is what defines mercury toxicity. Therefore, it should not be allowed to enter our body for any reason. 

Diseases Related to Chronic Mercury Poisoning

Mercury is non-radioactive, but it is a poisonous metal which affects the health in an aggressive manner. Chronic mercury exposure may cause various neurological and cutaneous symptoms. Mercury can damage all bodily systems. The immune, nervous and cardiovascular systems suffer the most injurious effects of chronic intoxication. There is also evidence that mercury may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease as well as other neurodegenerative diseases. In spite of the dental poisoning controversy, there are a certain set of classic symptoms that are observed in patients who have amalgam fillings:

Image of a lady holding a heart by Nebraska Family Dentisry in Lincoln, NE.
  • Psychological problems: irritability, insomnia, ataxia, loss of memory.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: diarrhea, colitis.
  • Cardio problems: high/low blood pressure, tachycardia, pains in chest, irregular pulse.
  • Neurological problems: regular headaches, dizziness, movement disorders.
  • Respiratory problems: shallow breathing, bronchitis, asthma.
  • Weakened immune system, leading to developing auto-immune conditions.

Clinical facts about Silver-Mercury Amalgam dental fillings and disadvantages to using it for fixing cavities. 

  • Silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings require more tooth removal than the new restorations that are available.  Since amalgams don’t bond to teeth, dentists have to make an undercut in the tooth to hold it in place. This can significantly undermine and weaken the tooth, potentially leading to a crack later on.
  • Silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings do not bond to the tooth structure and over time create a space between a filling and tooth structure allowing bacteria to sneak in and develop a cavity under the filling.
  • Dental amalgam also expands and contracts over time, working as a wedge inside the tooth and further weakening it over time. Additionally, as time progresses, this can lead to a cracked tooth.  Cracked Tooth Syndrome is very common in teeth with large amalgam fillings in them and are most often seen on back teeth.
Dental team member at Nebraska 
Family Dentistry.

What is a mercury-free dentistry? Are white fillings safer than mercury fillings? 

Your comfort and safety are always our priority. As a result of the ongoing health controversy surrounding the use of mercury in amalgam fillings, our office policy is to provide mercury-free dentistry. When your restorations are being replaced due to decay, fracture or because they are ill-fitting, all of our dentists in Lincoln, NE will use safe materials.  Ceramic, porcelain or composite restorations are stronger, better looking and environmentally friendly.

How much does it cost to replace Mercury fillings with white fillings? 

For patients with insurance, many times policies will cover a big portion of those restorations and pay an “alternative benefit,” which is the fee of the less expensive amalgam.  Personally, I have issues with insurance companies deciding which restoration material is ideal for my patients….but that’s another topic.

Amalgam-mercury- silver dental fillings before and after pictures

What are the benefits of composite/ white dental fillings?  Are white fillings safe for your overall health?

Composite restorations like this one (middle tooth) are superior to silver fillings. The restoration reinforces the tooth with a strong bond and smooth, undetectable margins to prevent leakage and recurrent decay. 

Those fillings are significantly safer for your overall health in comparison to mercury/ metal fillings.

Commonly asked questions about Mercury-Free dentistry

How is Mercury-Free dentistry different?

Metal-free dentists are those who practice dentistry not only with an understanding and concern for the physiology of the mouth, but also how it relates to the rest of the body and their patient’s long-term health and well-being. These dentists demand a scientific explanation or evidence of the safety and benefit of every material and procedure performed for their patients.

In general, most dentists are careful about choosing material that are safe for their patients because what goes in your mouth can ultimately have an impact on the rest of your body.

Do I recommend replacing Silver-Mercury Amalgam Dental Fillings?

Every time amalgams fillings are removed, the mercury vapor is released which is quickly absorbed into the lungs and bloodstream. I do not advocate for removing amalgam dental fillings unless you fall into a certain category and removal is deemed completely necessary. As with any dental procedure it would be good to discuss all of your options, including the risks and benefits, with your dentist in Lincoln, NE.

If you choose to replace those fillings or they have to be replaced due to developing cavities, we follow a strict protocol on “Safe Removal of Silver-Mercury Amalgam Dental Fillings.”

Amalgam-mercury- silver dental fillings before and after

 Does mercury escape from the metal structure of the filling?

Yes,  mercury is a vapor that can be seen in electron micrograph photos. This electron photo shows mercury “vapor” coming from the surface of an amalgam filling.

mercury fact poster

How can I determine if my fillings are causing damage to my body?

Some tests are available such as hair analysis, urine mercury, urine mercury porphyrin profile, fecal metal screen and blood tests ( for an acute mercury poisoning).

 Are there specific steps that should be taken in removing/replacing mercury fillings?

Yes, there are specific steps that should be taken for the safe removal mercury fillings. All of our dentists at Nebraska Family Dentistry follow the protocol for safe removal  of mercury fillings called: “Safe Removal of Silver-Mercury Amalgam Dental Fillings.”

How can I learn more about mercury-free dentistry? 

Follow the Links Below to Learn More about Dental Medicine:

  • Consumers for Dental Choice raises awareness of mercury sources and working to protect the health of people in the USA and our environment.
  • DAMS International discusses risks of mercury and other toxic heavy metals.

How do I schedule a consultation with a mercury-free dentist?

If you are looking for a mercury-free dentist in the Nebraska area, please consider on of our offices. If you are not in Nebraska but would like to have a consultation with one of our dentists, we offer online consults. Contact us directly with questions or to schedule your consultation at nebraskafamilydentistry@gmail.com.

Check out the “Should I replace cracked amalgam fillings” video

How we remove Amalgam-Silver Dental fillings safely for your overall health:

The procedure of toxic filling removal includes the following actions

  1. Keeping the filling cool:
    We remove fillings under a constant cold water spray to keep the temperature down and reduce the release of mercury vapor.
  2. Cutting the filling into chunks:
    The removal procedure involves cutting the filling into smaller chunks that can be easily removed.
  3. Using a high-volume evacuation (HVE):
    We use a high-volume evacuation system that helps collect and scavenge released mercury vapor. A suction tube remains in the mouth during the procedure, removing mercury and saliva.
  4. Using an Isolite:
    We use a non-latex Isolite to prevent swallowing or breathing of toxic mercury.
  5. Keeping the air pure:
    We have an air filtering system which cleans the air and collects mercury vapor.

Post-Procedure Treatment

After the removal of an amalgam filling, we recommend our patients have proper nutrition. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals to aid your immune system during the detoxification process.

In addition to consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables, taking Emergen-C, charcoal and eating cilantro have all been found to be helpful detoxification materials.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Dr. Kathryn Alderman

Dr. Kathryn Alderman

Your Mercury – Free Dentist

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