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Are Dental Amalgam Fillings A Health Risk?

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The present American Dental Association acknowledges that small amounts of mercury vapour is released during placement, mastication, and brushing€ but extensive studies have found no correlation between the mercury vapours released and any adverse health effects. [1]

The World Health Organization however has determined that even small amounts of mercury exposure can have serious health effects. [2] Mercury exposure can compromise the development of children in utero and put children, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age at risk. [3]


The WHO continues, €œIt may cause harmful effects to the nervous, digestive, respiratory, immune systems and to the kidneys, besides causing lung damage. Adverse health effects from mercury exposure can be tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, emotional instability, developmental deficits during foetal development, and attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood. Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.€ [4]

The research group, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) further revealed through its studies that there are risks involved in using dental amalgam fillings. [5] In one of their studies, IAOMT reports that people with dental amalgam fillings display a high-level of mercury in their tissues as opposed to those without the restorative material. [6] Additional research also found that individuals with amalgam fillings are constantly exposed as chewing, drinking hot beverages, and even brushing [7] can cause mercury to leak into the saliva and into the bloodstream. [8] Further, patients are not the only ones at risk. Researchers have found that dentists, dental assistants, and even dental students who work unprotected are continuously exposed. [9] [10]

On the local front, IAOMT-Philippines collaborated with environment group BAN Toxics! on a study which measured the level of mercury vapour emissions in areas that use dental mercury. Armed with a sophisticated measuring device, the research group focused on dental clinics, dentistry schools/universities, and even dental supply stores. The study found that these areas registered staggeringly high mercury emission levels, some even reaching figures that would warrant an immediate evacuation by the US-EPA. [11] This study also affirms the findings of an earlier research on mercury vapour emissions coming from exhaust air and dental vacuum systems. [12]

Apart from tainting the air (through emissions from dental facilities, cremation, and human wastes), [13] other studies also pointed to dental mercury as responsible for contaminating water systems (through waste water coming from dental offices) where it can transform into methylmercury, and according to the reports by the European Scientific Commission, can contaminate fish and cause second-hand mercury poisoning when consumed. [14] For the Philippines, with a diet that is mainly based on fish and seafood, mercury-tainted fish can lead to health problems for children and women of reproductive age.


References:
[1] Amalgam. (n.d.) American Dental Association's website. Retrieved on 06 October 2014 at http://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/amalgam Accessed 26 Sept 2014

[2] Mercury and health. (Sept 2013) In World Health Organization's website. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs361/en/ Accessed 26 Sept 2014

[3] World Health Organization. 2007. Exposure to Mercury: A Major Public Health Concern. Retrieved on 06 April 2014 at http://www.who.int/phe/news/Mercury-flyer.pdf

[4] World Health Organization. 2005. Mercury in Health Care: Policy Paper. Geneva, Switzerland; August 2005: 1 Retrieved on 06 April 2014 at http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/medicalwaste/mercurypolpaper.pdf Accessed 26 Sept 2014

[5] IAOMT Scientific Review, 2013. International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) Position Statement against Dental Mercury Amalgam Filliongs for Medicla and Dental Practitioners, Dental Students, and Patients. Retrieved on 06 April 2014 at http://iaomt.org/wp-content/uploads/IAOMT-2013-Position-

[6] Koral, Stephen, 2013. Understanding Risk Assessment for Mercury from Dental Amalgam. International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology website. Retrieved on 26 September 2014 at
http://iaomt.org/understanding-risk-assessment-mercury-dental-amalgam/

[7] Hansen G, Victor R, Engeldinger E, Schweitzer C. Evaluation of the mercury exposure of dental amalgam patients by the Mercury Triple Test. Occup Environ Med. 2004;61: 535 –40. Abstract available at http://oem.bmj.com/content/61/6/535.short

[8] Mercola, Joseph, 2012. Mercury: The Hidden Trigger to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's That 75% of People Carr. Mercola’s website. Retrieved on 26 September 2014 at
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/07/dangers-of-mercury-contamination.aspx par. 12

[9] Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal, 2012. Assessment of occupational exposure of dental professionals to mercury in dental offices of a public primary health care in Maringá, Paraná State, Brazil. Retrieved on 06 October 2014 at http://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=307226825001

[10] Warwick, Robin, O' Connor, Andrea and Lamey, Brianne. Mercury vapour exposure during dental student training in amalgam removal. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology. 2013. Retrieved on 06 October 2014 at http://www.occup-med.com/content/8/1/27 Accessed 26 Sept 2014

[11] BAN Toxics! and IAOMT-Philippines. What's Up In The Air? Mercury Vapor Levels in Dental Institutions. 2014

[12] Stone, Mark E, Cohen, Mark E, Debban, Brad A. Mercury vapor levels in exhaust air from dental vacuum systems. Dental Materials. Vol. 3 pp 527-532. 2007

[13] IAOMT, 2011. The toxics effects of mercury in dental amalgam fillings on the environment and human health. Retrieved on 06 April 2014 at http://iaomt.org/wp-content/uploads/IAOMT-Fact-Sheet.pdf Accessed 26 Sept 2014

[14] Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks, 2008.Opinion on the environmental risks and indirect health effects

of mercury in dental amalgam. Retrieved on 26 September 2014 at http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scher/docs/scher_o_089.pdf