Dental Amalgam Safety

Dental Amalgam: 200 years of Safety and Effectiveness

  • Used for more than 150 years, dental amalgam (a.k.a. silver filling) is a safe, affordable and durable material used to restore the teeth of more than 100 million Americans. It contains a mixture of metals such as silver, copper and tin, in addition to mercury, which chemically binds these components into a hard, stable and safe substance.
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association in a paper published April 19, 2006 (Vol. 295 No. 15) studied the neurobehavioral effects of dental amalgam in children. The study involved 500 children over a seven year period. Children who received dental restorative treatment with amalgam did not, on average, have statistically significant differences in neurobehavioral assessments or in nerve conduction velocity when compared with children who received resin composite materials without amalgam. These findings, combined with the trend of higher treatment need later among those receiving composite, suggest that amalgam should remain a viable dental restorative option for children.
  • Issued in late 1997, the FDI World Dental Federation and the World Health Organization consensus statement on dental amalgam stated, “No controlled studies have been published demonstrating systemic adverse effects from amalgam restorations.” The document also states that, aside from rare instances of local side effects of allergic reactions, “the small amount of mercury released from amalgam restorations, especially during placement and removal, has not been shown to cause any … adverse health effects.”
  • People are exposed to more total mercury from food, water and air than from the minuscule amounts of mercury vapor generated from amalgam fillings.
  • There is no scientific evidence that exposure to mercury from amalgam restorations poses a serious health risk in humans, except for the exceedingly small number of allergic reactions. In 150 years of use, there have only been 100 documented cases of allergic reactions to amalgam in dental literature.
  • In 1997, the FDA’s Dental Products Panel found there was no reason to remove amalgam fillings. The U.S. Public Health Service found in 2006 “no persuasive reason to believe that avoiding amalgams or having them removed will have a beneficial effect on health.” In fact, it is inadvisable to have amalgams removed unnecessarily because it can cause structural damage to healthy teeth.
  • Claims that the removal of amalgam leads to recovery from multiple sclerosis or that the use of amalgam leads to arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease are unsubstantiated and without scientifically established cause and effect.
  • The ADA supports ongoing research in the development of new materials that it hopes will someday prove to be as safe and effective as dental amalgam. Current alternatives, such as composite resins, have not been as effective as dental amalgam in providing a durable and long- lasting restoration, especially in the case of large fillings.