Mercury Fillings Dangers, Who Is At Risk & Removal Checklist

Published on


Hi, I’m Dr. B, practicing functional dentist for 35 years. I graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, CA in 1987 and am a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), Academy of General Dentistry (Chicago, IL), American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), and Dental Board of California. I'm on a mission to empower people everywhere with the same evidence-based, easy-to-understand dental health advice that my patients get. Learn more about Dr. B

Mercury fillings are used to fill cavities. They are made up of various metals, but typically contain 50% mercury by weight.

These amalgam fillings release mercury that is not only bad for your oral health but may be absorbed into your brain, kidneys, liver, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract.

Because the word “mercury” is rightly associated with poison, the conventional dental community has come up with much nicer words to describe what they’re putting in dental patients’ mouths.

Mercury fillings are also called:

  • Amalgam fillings
  • Mercury amalgam fillings
  • Dental amalgam fillings
  • Silver fillings
  • Silver amalgam fillings

Are mercury fillings still used? 

Yes, mercury fillings are still used. They are probably the most popular cavity filler.

Used in the United States for over 150 years, mercury fillings have been controversial since their introduction.

When dental amalgam was introduced, the only US dental association at that time declared the use of mercury fillings to be malpractice. After all, fatal cases of methylmercury poisoning were turning up by the mid-1800s.

But then the American Dental Association (ADA) was founded. They have since defended the problematic use of dental amalgam, which definitely poses public health risks for many individuals.

Instead of filling cavities with dental amalgam, look for a “mercury-free” dentist who is able to fill your cavity with a mercury alternative, such as porcelain or composite fillings. That way, you’re not potentially exposing yourself to the adverse effects of mercury toxicity.

Below, I discuss who’s at most risk of mercury exposure from dental amalgam, and whether or not you should have your mercury fillings removed.

How much mercury is in amalgam/silver fillings?

Amalgam/silver fillings contain about 50% elemental mercury by weight.

When did they stop using mercury in fillings? Most dentists have never stopped using mercury in fillings. In the United States, about half of all dentists still use dental amalgam as a low-cost dental filling option.

The American Dental Association (ADA) explains that dental amalgam “contains a mixture of metals such as silver, copper, and tin, in addition to mercury.” As if “in addition to” would downplay the heaping serving of mercury being stuck into patients’ teeth!

What is in dental amalgam? Here is the approximate breakdown of low-copper amalgam:

  • 50% mercury
  • 22-32% silver
  • 14% tin
  • 8% zinc
  • Other trace metals

34 Evidence-Based Dangers of Amalgam Fillings

There is more and more evidence being published that shows amalgam fillings may lead to mercury toxicity or mercury poisoning in some individuals.

Amalgam fillings are the number one source of mercury exposure in humans. Autopsy studies reveal that bodies with amalgam fillings have 2-12 times the levels of mercury present in their skin than bodies without amalgam fillings.

Can mercury fillings cause health problems? Scientific evidence has linked amalgam fillings to the following health conditions:

  1. Allergies
  2. Alzheimer’s disease
  3. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AKA Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
  4. Anxiety
  5. Appetite loss
  6. Autism spectrum disorders
  7. Autoimmune disorders
  8. Cardiovascular issues
  9. Chronic fatigue syndrome
  10. Depression
  11. Endocrine disruption
  12. Gingivitis
  13. Hallucinations
  14. Headaches
  15. Hearing loss
  16. Insomnia
  17. Kidney issues
  18. Liver issues
  19. Memory loss
  20. Mood changes
  21. Multiple sclerosis
  22. Nervous system issues
  23. Oral cancer
  24. Oral lichen planus
  25. Parkinson’s disease
  26. Miscarriage or newborn death
  27. Periodontal disease
  28. Reproductive dysfunction/infertility
  29. Respiratory issues
  30. Restless leg syndrome
  31. Suicidal ideation
  32. Thyroid disorders
  33. Tremors
  34. Weight loss

Why are amalgam fillings still used?

Amalgam fillings are still used because they are inexpensive and durable, though many individuals have reported adverse effects due to mercury exposure from amalgam fillings.

  1. Amalgam fillings are cheap — often hundreds of dollars cheaper than other filling materials.
  2. Mercury is durable, yet it easily forms to the shape of your tooth.
  3. Mercury is antibacterial. Amalgam fillings actually kill bacteria around them and can prevent the spread of tooth decay in the tooth structure they’re connected to.
  4. A lot of people never experience adverse health effects from amalgam fillings, so most government and health agencies still consider them overall safe to use.

What do government/health agencies say about mercury fillings?

  • The ADA affirms that amalgam is “valuable, viable, and safe.” (It is worth mentioning that the ADA’s research arm used to hold two patents for dental amalgam.)
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says dental amalgam is safe for everyone older than 6.
  • The Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) admits amalgam restorations account for low levels of mercury exposure.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits that dental offices disposing of dental amalgam are the number one source of mercury in sewage treatment plants.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that the small amount of mercury from dental amalgam doesn’t result in health problems. Yet another page on their site claims, “Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems.”
  • The European Union has banned the use of mercury fillings in children under 15, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women. Several European countries are set to ban mercury fillings completely in the coming years.

Who is at the most risk with mercury fillings?

  • Children under age 15
  • Pregnant women, breastfeeding women
  • Bruxers (people who grind teeth)
  • People with MTHFR mutations
  • Older people who have had amalgam fillings for a long time
  • Those already regularly exposed to heavy metals (such as people who work with industrial mercury)
  • Those exposed to excess EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies)

Chewing, drinking hot liquids, and even brushing your teeth may slightly increase the mercury released into your body.

Dr. Oz and Dr. Gerry Curatola discussed how amalgam fillings release mercury vapor while brushing teeth for just a few seconds.

Research indicates that dentists, dental students, and dental personnel who work with this form of mercury are also at risk of dangerous levels of mercury exposure.

Should you have amalgam fillings removed?

Yes, you should have your amalgam fillings removed, if your dentist examines your unique case and determines it is wise. That’s the simple answer.

Dental professionals should make this decision with their patient on a case by case basis. The problem with removing restorative material made with mercury is that the act of removal may expose you to more mercury than leaving it in.

Talk to your dentist about removing your fillings if any of the following are true:

  • You have significant mercury levels circulating in your blood
  • You exhibit adverse effects of mercury exposure (insomnia, muscle weakness, dizziness, mood swings, headaches, tremors, etc.)
  • You have had or could have mercury fillings for several decades

First, you should have your mercury levels tested. If you don’t have a significant amount of mercury circulating in your blood, or you aren’t exhibiting visible adverse effects, having your amalgam fillings removed may not be worth it.

Another consideration is whether you’re an expectant mother or if you’re feeding a newborn breast milk.

You’re most exposed to mercury in the 24 hours after the dental amalgam filling is placed, and then in the 24 hours after they’re removed.

Should mercury fillings be removed? Yes, mercury fillings should be removed, as long as your dentist has examined your situation and deemed it appropriate.

If you’re showing no allergic reaction or chronic health issues or traceable mercury levels, the removal of amalgam fillings may expose yourself to more mercury for little to no reason.

If you are getting your mercury fillings removed, make sure to visit a “mercury-safe” functional dentist who employs the SMART method of mercury removal.

After you get your mercury fillings removed, it is important to compare your post-op mercury levels to your pre-op levels, limit fish intake for a while, and go on a detox diet. Don’t forget to reduce your EMF exposure!

16 References

  1. Mutter, J. (2011). Is dental amalgam safe for humans? The opinion of the scientific committee of the European Commission. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, 6(1), 2. Full text:
  2. Jirau-Colón, H., González-Parrilla, L., Martinez-Jiménez, J., Adam, W., & Jiménez-Velez, B. (2019). Rethinking the dental amalgam dilemma: an integrated toxicological approach. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(6), 1036. Full text:
  3. Bose-O’Reilly, S., McCarty, K. M., Steckling, N., & Lettmeier, B. (2010). Mercury exposure and children’s health. Current problems in pediatric and adolescent health care, 40(8), 186-215. Full text:
  4. Geier, D. A., Kern, J. K., & Geier, M. R. (2009). A prospective study of prenatal mercury exposure from maternal dental amalgams and autism severity. Acta Neurobiol Exp, 69(2), 189-97. Full text:
  5. Bártová, J., Procházková, J., Krátká, Z., Benetková, K., Venclíková, Z., & Sterzl, I. (2003). Dental amalgam as one of the risk factors in autoimmune diseases. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 24(1/2), 65-67. Abstract: 
  6. Genchi, G., Sinicropi, M. S., Carocci, A., Lauria, G., & Catalano, A. (2017). Mercury exposure and heart diseases. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(1), 74. Full text:
  7. Shin, S. R., & Han, A. L. (2012). Improved chronic fatigue symptoms after removal of mercury in patient with increased mercury concentration in hair toxic mineral assay: a case. Korean journal of family medicine, 33(5), 320. Full text:
  8. Rice, K. M., Walker Jr, E. M., Wu, M., Gillette, C., & Blough, E. R. (2014). Environmental mercury and its toxic effects. Journal of preventive medicine and public health, 47(2), 74. Full text:
  9. Ertaş, E., Aksoy, A., Turla, A., Karaarslan, E. S., Karaarslan, B., Aydın, A., & Eken, A. Y. Ş. E. (2014). Human brain mercury levels related to exposure to amalgam fillings. Human & experimental toxicology, 33(8), 873-877. Full text:
  10. Mary, S. J., Girish, K. L., Joseph, T. I., & Sathyan, P. (2018). Genotoxic effects of silver amalgam and composite restorations: Micronuclei-Based cohort and case–control study in oral exfoliated cells. Contemporary clinical dentistry, 9(2), 249. Full text: 
  11. Östman, P. O., Anneroth, G., & Skoglund, A. (1994). Oral lichen planus lesions in contact with amalgam fillings: a clinical, histologic, and immunohistochemical study. European Journal of Oral Sciences, 102(3), 172-179. Abstract:
  12. Björkman, L., Lygre, G. B., Haug, K., & Skjærven, R. (2018). Perinatal death and exposure to dental amalgam fillings during pregnancy in the population-based MoBa cohort. PloS one, 13(12), e0208803. Full text:
  13. Dickman, M. D., Leung, C. K., & Leong, M. K. (1998). Hong Kong male subfertility links to mercury in human hair and fish. Science of the Total Environment, 214(1-3), 165-174. Abstract:
  14. Szklarek, M., & Kostka, T. (2019). The impact of the use of amalgam in dental treatment on the prevalence of restless legs syndrome in older people. Med Pr, 70(1), 9-16. Abstract:
  15. Sterzl, I., Prochazkova, J., Hrda, P., Matucha, P., Bartova, J., & Stejskal, V. (2006). Removal of dental amalgam decreases anti-TPO and anti-Tg autoantibodies in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 27(1), 25-30. Full text:
  16. Counter, S. A., & Buchanan, L. H. (2004). Mercury exposure in children: a review. Toxicology and applied pharmacology, 198(2), 209-230. Full text: