Mercury in Dental Fillings

Topics: Amalgam, Dental restoration, Dental amalgam controversy Pages: 3 (1060 words) Published: May 1, 2008
“Mercury is used in dental fillings and can cause people to get sick. Tests show mercury levels can be detected in the mouth and so everyone should get their fillings replaced.” This urban legend is partially true in the sense that mercury is used to create the structure used in dental fillings, however there is a debate on whether or not this practice, which has been used in dental restoration since 1816 when Auguste Taveau developed the dental amalgam from silver coins and mercury is dangerous to our health (wikipedia). Amalgam fillings are said to be a mixture of 43% to 54% mercury and a powdered alloy made mostly of silver, tin, zinc and copper commonly called the amalgam alloy (wikipedia).

Mercury, often referred to as quicksilver is a chemical element which is located on the periodic table with an atomic number of 80 and the symbol Hg. Mercury is present as a liquid at standard room temperature and is classified as a transition metal by scientists. Transition metals are any metals found in the d block on the periodic table. The controversy concerning the use of mercury is due to the great concern over the element’s toxicity. Mercury is a neurotoxin and “elevated blood mercury levels have led to retardation and deformities in children” (wikipedia). Although many manufacturers have terminated using mercury in products such as thermometers, Mercury is still used in dental amalgam.

While many have argued that this poses a severe health risk, others argue that the structure formed by the mixing of the elements mercury, zinc, copper, tin, and silver is not harmful because mercury is bonded with other elements to create a strong, stable substance. Stephen Barrett M.D. explains, “The difference between bound and unbound chemicals can be illustrated by a simple analogy. Elemental hydrogen is an explosive gas. Elemental oxygen is a gas that supports combustion. When combined, however, they form water, which has neither of these effects. Amalgam's ingredients...
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