Dr. Raed Kamal D.M.D

Dental Care For The Whole Family

Winnipeg Family Dentist | Dr. Raed Kamal

The mercury from amalgam fillings has become a growing concern, as more and more people seek to reduce the number of toxins introduced into their bodies. Because of this, we often get questions from people about replacing mercury based amalgam fillings with mercury-free alternatives.

There is a lot of information available on this topic, and I have set up this page to provide a balanced opinion on mercury-based fillings, as well as methods for their replacement. You can also see my Fillings, Onlays and Bridge pages for mercury-free filling options.

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Mercury is a Toxin

It is an undisputed fact that mercury is a toxin that can cause all kinds of health problems in humans, but each individual will be affected differently by the same amount of mercury exposure. Factors to consider when dealing with mercury exposure are:

  • The quantity of mercury exposure and amount absorbed into the body;
  • The sources of mercury exposure;
  • The term of accumulation of exposure (short or long term);
  • And the body’s ability to filter and dispose of mercury.

As it is very difficult to fully quantify all sources of exposure to mercury, and the body’s ability to filter it, it is always prudent to minimize your exposure. This is especially true for those experiencing symptoms related to mercury toxicity. If you think you might be suffering from mercury poisoning or a hypersensitivity to mercury, you may want to have your mercury levels checked. If you are truly experiencing an issue with mercury poisoning/hypersensitivity, you will want to assess all sources of possible mercury exposure. This may include evaluating your diet and environment, as well as considering the replacement of fillings, especially if you have multiple large amalgam fillings.

Mercury From Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings release mercury over time. The amount of mercury vapor from the fillings can vary based on type of amalgam filling, size and location, as well as stimulating factors like increases in temperature, grinding forces from chewing, etc. It should be noted that although amalgam fillings contain around 50% mercury, the vast majority of this mercury is bound up in molecular compounds and stuck inside the filling. It is only the free, unbound mercury that is most vulnerable to being released into the environment.

What is currently in dispute is whether or not there is a real health risk from the amount of mercury released from amalgam fillings. It is nearly impossible to tell in each individual case (without extensive and costly testing) whether or not mercury is being released from a person’s fillings. Thus, it becomes a personal choice as to whether one should have their amalgam fillings replaced or not. It should be noted, that a large portion of the mercury released from the filling is not absorbed by the body, but is instead breathed away. And much of the mercury absorbed by the body is simply passed through the system. So just because an amalgam filling releases x amount of mercury, it does not mean all that mercury is absorbed and trapped into your body tissues.

Risks and Benefits of Replacement

Like most things in life, the replacement of mercury based fillings has both its risks and benefits. These will vary from case to case as each tooth, filling, and person is different. Once these risks and benefits are understood, an individual can make the right decision.

Risks

  • Removal of amalgam fillings can cause a short term increase in body mercury levels.
  • Each time a tooth is worked on, trauma occurs to the tooth. Over time, the trauma can add up and result in the tooth dying and needing a root canal treatment.
  • Drilling on teeth has the potential for causing cracks in the tooth that can result in further damage and loss of tooth structure.

Benefits

  • Replacement with white fillings are more aesthetic.
  • White fillings are bonded to tooth structure and return some of the lost strength from when the filling was first performed.
  • Long term reduction in mercury exposure.

Replacement Process

amalgam mercury replacement winnipeg cosmetic invisalign dentistThere are many theories on how best to go about replacing amalgam fillings. Unfortunately, many of those theories are based on scare tactics and profit making. Ultimately, the technique chosen must take into consideration the various risks to removing the amalgam filling and work to minimize those risks. At My Family Dentist, the following measures are taken when patients have their mercury based amalgam fillings replaced.

  • Removal in chunks: When removing the fillings, every effort is made to remove them in as large of pieces as possible. This minimizes the amount of drilling, which helps to minimize trauma to the tooth, and minimize the release of mercury vapor.
  • Water: The use of water spray while drilling out the old filling helps to keep the tooth cool to minimize trauma. Additionally, the water spray helps to minimize the amount of mercury vapor.
  • High volume suction: Our high volume suction helps to suck up the old filling as well as draw away the mercury vapor. For added safety, the suction system is vented outside of the office to prevent the mercury vapor from entering the office.
  • Brand-new burs: At My Family Dentist we only use brand new burs. This ensures that they are sharp and cut efficiently. This also minimizes the cracking of the tooth and helps reduce heat production during the drilling process.
  • Staggered replacement: When someone is looking to have all their amalgam fillings replaced, we will do it in stages, one quarter of the mouth at a time. In between appointments, the mouth can heal, and the body will be allowed to rid itself of the temporary increase in mercury. This also helps to spread out the cost of replacement.
  • Rubber dam: At My Family Dentist we use nitrile rubber dams to help prevent the ingestion of any of the mercury-based filling. Many dentists will use latex rubber dams, but these are ineffective at preventing organic mercury from passing through, and organic mercury is highly absorbed through the digestive tract.

So if you are considering replacing your amalgam fillings, and have questions or would like to book a consult, contact us today.

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