Dental amalgam can cause mercury poisoning

Amalgam: how harmful is the tooth filling?

Status: 03/09/2020 11:51 a.m.

Amalgam fillings are controversial because they contain toxic mercury. How dangerous are amalgam fillings for health? And what should dentists pay attention to?

Every third person in Germany has an amalgam filling. The material is considered durable and inexpensive. Statutory health insurances only cover the costs in full for amalgam fillings. But amalgam contains toxic mercury.

Dentists advise: Anyone who has an amalgam filling should not have it removed without cause. Because when laying and removing, mercury is actually released. Removal is only recommended if the fillings start to leak or if there is a gap between them - because then there is a risk of mercury vapors.

Toxic fumes from amalgam fillings

Amalgam consists of 50 percent mercury, bound in an alloy of silver, copper, zinc and tin. The metal mixture is delivered to dental practices in ready-to-use doses. Mercury vapors are generated

  • for an hour after laying the filling. This is how long the filling takes to harden.
  • when removing the filling by the heat of the drill.

Precautions when removing amalgam

When removing amalgam fillings, dentists should observe a few precautions:

  • The mouth is lined with silicone protection - a "rubber dam", so that the patient does not swallow any amalgam.
  • The patient needs a special air supply because the gaseous mercury is otherwise absorbed through the lungs and nose.

Amalgam is classified as hazardous waste and must be disposed of in special containers ("separators") so that it does not end up in the environment.

Protect children, adolescents and pregnant women

Current EU law limits the use of amalgam: no amalgam fillings should be placed or removed in adolescents under 15 years of age or pregnant women.

Amalgam exposure to mercury

In Germany everyone has an average of 1.5 micrograms of mercury in one liter of blood due to environmental pollution. With five to six amalgam fillings, the load increases twice to three times. But even in this case it remains below the limit of 5 micrograms, which is considered harmless.

The Robert Koch Institute sees no evidence that the smallest amounts of mercury promote the development of diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS, autism, multiple sclerosis or hormonal disorders. However, there is a residual risk due to a lack of data.

Mercury in edible fish

Edible fish such as tuna and perch can also contain 20 to 40 times as much mercury as a tooth filling made from amalgam. The mercury level is also significantly higher in salmon and sea bream.

Experts on the subject

Dr. Helmut Pfeffer, dentist
Deputy Chairman of the Hamburg Chamber of Dentists
Willow Tree Path 6
21029 Hamburg
(040) 724 28 09

Prof. Dr. med. Thomas Eschenhagen, director of the institute
Institute for Experimental Pharmacology and Toxicology
Center for Experimental Medicine
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf
Martinistrasse 52
20246 Hamburg

Dr. Friedrich Mauss, dentist and periodontist
Winterhuder Weg 76a
22085 Hamburg
(040) 227 95 05

additional Information
National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians: Frequently asked questions and answers in connection with dental fillings

National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians: Dental fillings: What you as a patient should know (PDF)

German Medical Association on amalgam (PDF)

Federal Environment Agency: Frequently asked questions about mercury

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Visit | 03/10/2020 | 8:15 pm