What Is Mercury and How Is It Used in Dentistry?

What Is Mercury and How Is It Used in Dentistry?

Mercury is a hot topic — with discussions often focusing on fish consumption as well as dental care. Why? Mercury is a toxin, and it pops up in familiar places, such as the dentist’s chair or in your favorite seafood restaurant.

Mehrnoosh Darj, DDS, is on a mission to offer metal-free — specifically mercury-free — dentistry to help you reduce your exposure to heavy metals and mercury. Unfortunately, not everyone knows about mercury or its dangers. Here, the team at Dr. Darj Dental exposes the problems with mercury — explaining what mercury is, how it’s used in dentistry, and how you can avoid it.

What is mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal found in the Earth’s crust. While you might recognize mercury as the periodic element responsible for telling you the temperature in a thermometer, mercury is a dangerous metal with no known safe levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers mercury to be a leading public health concern

How is mercury used in dentistry? 

Mercury is used in restorative dentistry, particularly in fillings. Filling material is used to “fill in” the hole created by tooth decay. 

While filling material can be made of many materials, amalgam is one of the most popular options. Amalgam fillings 一 or as they’re more often called, silver fillings 一 contain about a 50-50 mix of elemental mercury and a blend of other metals. The remaining 50% blend often contains silver, copper, and tin.

The problem with mercury in dentistry

Mercury exposure can happen in many places, including the food you eat and in your workplace. Regardless of how you’re exposed, mercury can affect many body systems, from your immune system to your nervous system. The neurological complications of mercury poisoning include memory loss, tremors, and insomnia.

Elemental mercury 一 the type of mercury used in dental fillings known as metallic mercury, often in a liquid at room temperature 一 emits low levels of mercury vapor. Although these levels are low, you still inhale them. 

The US Food and Drug Administration lists several populations of people who are particularly at risk for the effects of mercury fillings and the mercury vapors: pregnant women, children under age 6, individuals with neurological dysfunction, and those with metal sensitivities.

Inhaling mercury vapor is enough to cause unwanted side effects of mercury exposure. According to research published in Biological Inorganic Chemistry, these side effects include gingivitis, fatigue, shyness, stomach upset, insomnia, and depression.

What does this mean for mercury used in dentistry? The reality is that there’s no known safe level of exposure to mercury. In other words, dental restorations that contain mercury can increase your risk of experiencing the side effects of mercury exposure.

Not only is mercury problematic, but other metals in amalgam fillings can irritate the tissue in your mouth, particularly if you’re sensitive to metals.

Mercury-free dentistry

At Dr. Darj Dental, we proudly offer composite fillings, a type of mercury-free filling material. Composite resin is a polymer-based filling material that contains acrylic resin and powdered glass filler. Because of their tooth-colored appearance, these fillings are sometimes called white fillings. 

Mercury-free fillings provide four benefits:

  1. They restore your damaged tooth without exposing you to any metal
  2. They’re a safe option for individuals with metal sensitivity 
  3. They’re ideal for patients looking to reduce exposure to any heavy metals
  4. They enhance the look of your smile and blend in with your teeth

Mercury-free dentistry is one of our passions here at Dr. Darj Dental, but we take it a step further and offer additional metal-free dental services, such as porcelain crowns and metal-free orthodontic treatments with ClearCorrect® aligners.

To learn more about metal-free dentistry, book a consultation online or call our office in El Paso, Texas, today at 915-213-4097. 

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