Lucknow: Tooth decay is a pervasive public health problem around the world. It causes pain, infection, and tooth loss. Dental amalgam fillings contain mercury and other metals. Because mercury has long been recognized as poisonous to humans, concerns about the potential of mercury poisoning from dental amalgams have been addressed by abundant research. Mercury present in the alloy used in dental fillings released over time enters body causing disruptions and disorders of the nervous system.

What is Mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occurring substance, found in air, water, and soil. It also is found in dental amalgam fillings. Insufficient quantity, mercury is known to be toxic to humans. Even so, scientific evidence, accumulated over decades, supports the view that there is no clinical evidence of mercury poisoning in people who have amalgam fillings in their mouths.

Are dental fillings Poisonous?

Do dental fillings containing amalgam (“silver fillings”) cause mercury poisoning? Most research finds no relationship between fillings and symptoms of mercury poisoning. Dental caries (tooth decay) are pervasive. According to the report by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 41 percent of children had dental caries in their primary (baby) teeth and 90 percent of adults had caries in their permanent teeth.

Amalgam fillings are widely used because they are strong and so provide durable chewing surfaces. They can be inserted more quickly than some other types of fillings, making them useful when treating children. They are less expensive to place than other types of fillings and they usually last longer.

Hundreds of published research studies have examined the relationship between dental amalgam fillings and mercury levels in human tissue; the presence or absence of symptoms of mercury poisoning in people with dental amalgam fillings; and any established link between the presence of dental amalgams and systemic illness. Following are illustrative examples of studies associated with children over the age of six, adults, vulnerable populations such as infants, pregnant and breastfeeding women and their infants, those sensitive to dental amalgam, and selected neurological conditions.

Reasons for Tooth Decay

Tooth decay begins when bacteria in saliva and plaque, a sticky substance found on gums and teeth, interact with sugars and starches in the diet. The result is acid which can erode dental enamel. Untreated tooth decay leads to holes in the teeth (cavities), infections (abscesses), pain, and tooth loss.

Dental cavities are treated by drilling out the decayed material and replacing it with a filling, either an amalgam filling or one of the newer types of tooth-coloured composite fillings. The choice of filling materials depends on the location of surface(s) to be repaired, how cooperative the patient is, and several other factors.