Dangerous dental fillings: Fact or fiction?

Some dentists are urging their patients to replace all mercury amalgam fillings because alleged seepage of the metal will cause poisoning thai can lead to degenerative diseases.

More than 100 million cavities are filled with amalgams of mercury every year. The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter reports that once mercury has been combined with other metals to make a filling, it forms an inactive substance. "You get far more mercury from a tuna fish, "the publication comments.

The American Dental Association, responding to these rumors and noting the eagerness of some dentists to replace fillings, recently declared that it would be improper and unethical to recommend such extensive removal unless the patient is allergic to mercury.

Although fillings containing mercury are mixed with silver, copper, tin, and zinc for binding purposes, some individuals will develop allergies to the metal.

Removing fillings, researchers say, can increase tooth sensitivity to temperature change and pressure that might eventually lead to the need for extraction or root canal work. Structural damage to the teeth can also result.

ILLUSTRATION: Honore Daumier

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