advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Mouthful of Mercury?

I understand that the FDA now says that mercury in silver dental fillings is toxic after all, and should be avoided by pregnant women and children. What about the rest of us?  What is the danger and what should we do?

A
Answer (Published 8/25/2008)

Mercury amalgam fillings have been around for more than 150 years and have been generating controversy from the start. The material is inexpensive, versatile, durable, and easy to work with. But over the years, repeated concerns have been raised that toxic mercury vapor escaping from fillings poses all kinds of health problems.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor - If you are interested in supplementing your diet but don't know where to start, take Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor. It is free, and provides a personalized vitamin & supplement recommendation based on your health history. Visit today!

In June 2008, the FDA settled a lawsuit with some consumer groups by agreeing to warn the public about the potential health risks posed by mercury from amalgam fillings, even though no new evidence has emerged linking the amalgam fillings to health problems. While there is no question that mercury vapor is toxic, its release from amalgam fillings is very slow, and I'm not aware of any studies here or abroad showing that it presents a health risk. Most release occurs when fillings are put in, making it more hazardous for the dentists who work with amalgam regularly than for the patients whose teeth are being filled. The only documented problems that have been traced to the fillings are rare, local side effects or allergic reactions.

In a notice posted on its Web site, the FDA said that the mercury in dental amalgams "may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses" and that pregnant women and anyone else who may have a health condition that "makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden" should discuss the choice of filling materials with their dentists.

The groups that filed the suit argued that the mercury in the fillings can lead to such health problems as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. I have seen no evidence to support those claims. One of the FDA panel members was quoted as saying that while there is a "theoretical reason" to suspect harm from the fillings, there is no evidence of actual harm. The use of amalgam fillings has been on the wane in recent years in favor of tooth-colored resin composites (which don't last as long as amalgam fillings but are getting better).

The FDA did not recommend that consumers replace amalgam fillings to cut down on the potential risk they may pose. Given the lack of evidence that the amalgams cause health problems, I wouldn't worry about fillings you already have. When they break down, you can replace them with non-mercury-containing material. But make sure the dentist who removes them takes precautions to protect you from inhaling mercury vapor during the process.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here