Mercury Rising: Is Dental Amalgam a Viable and Ethical Restorative Material?

Kristin Allison, Gardner-Webb University


Dental amalgam has long been considered a superior dental material, due to its durability, cost effectiveness, and ease of placement. Although dental amalgam has been controversial since its introduction to the west, the debate on its efficacy and effectiveness was reignited after several recent studies found that mercury is continuously released from amalgam fillings. Researchers have sought to quantify the amount of mercury in various body fluids and tissues, including urine, blood, hair, and brain tissue. Overall, the results of these studies are inconclusive. Some of the research indicates that the levels of mercury are well below the risk threshold, while other articles indicate that the amount of mercury exposure from amalgam fillings is much higher than previously reported. Because the researchers are using different sample mediums from various countries, more research is necessary to provide conclusive evidence that mercury released from amalgam fillings has an adverse effect on human subjects. Until then, the use of dental amalgam will be phased down, and alternative dental restorative materials such as resin composites, glass ionomer cements, resin ionomer cements, and compomers should be explored.