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While we all, for the most part, have had fillings at one point or another, it seems not all fillings are the same. According to the FDA, something known as amalgam fillings might not be right for everyone.

Amalgam fillings for those who do not know are something used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay made up of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. The FDA has noted that about 50 percent of it is made up of Mercury by weight and well, overall this kind of filling isn’t necessarily as safe as we might think for everyone. Actually, while safe for ‘most’ it is something that people who are pregnant, nursing, or under the age of six should avoid. 

The FDA on September 24th also mentioned that people who have kidney issues, allergies or sensitivities to mercury or other things within this kind of filling, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or even multiple sclerosis should be doing their best to get other kinds of fillings when fillings are needed to avoid health issues that these fillings may bring forth. When it comes to getting fillings and also facing the things listed above opting for resin or something else of the sort instead might be the difference between experiencing issues or not. That being said, this doesn’t come with a new study or anything of the sort, so we’re not sure why it showed up out of the blue. Sure, we already knew these kinds of fillings were controversial but now we are able to understand things further.

The FDA wrote as follows breaking things down a bit:

For over 20 years, the FDA has been reviewing scientific literature, monitoring reports, and holding public discussions regarding the public health effects of dental amalgam and amalgam-related mercury vapor. Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury and a powdered alloy made up of silver, tin, and copper. The amalgam releases small amounts of mercury vapor over time. While low-levels of inhaled mercury vapor are generally not harmful to most people, these high-risk individuals may be at increased risk of adverse health outcomes. How much vapor is released can also depend on the age of the filling as well as a person’s habits such as teeth grinding.

These uncertainties in the most vulnerable patients are why today we are recommending people who may be at high risk for adverse health effects of mercury exposure use non-mercury alternatives to dental amalgam, such as composite resins and glass ionomer cement fillings. Dental amalgam-related mercury vapor release may be highest during placement or removal of the filling. The FDA is not recommending anyone remove or replace existing amalgam fillings in good condition unless it is considered medically necessary because removing intact amalgam fillings can cause a temporary increase in exposure to mercury vapor and the potential loss of healthy tooth structure, potentially resulting in more risks than benefits. While the available evidence suggests that dental amalgam use has generally declined over recent years, due to more alternative products being offered and used effectively for dental restorations, high-risk individuals, as noted in our recommendations, should discuss alternative products for restoring teeth with their dentist.

Our reviews and discussions have generally arrived at the same conclusion: while the majority of evidence suggests exposure to mercury vapor from dental amalgam fillings doesn’t lead to harmful health effects for most people, there may be some effects in people with certain health issues such as those who are hypersensitive to mercury. Uncertainties remain about: the effects that long-term exposure to dental amalgam may have on the specific high-risk groups we’ve listed above; the potential for mercury in dental amalgam to convert to other mercury compounds in the body; and whether the accumulation of mercury in some body fluids and tissues results in other unintended health outcomes.

We have made these recommendations after hearing from health care professionals, evaluating published literature, and considering the public’s comments about dental amalgam and other metal-containing implants. During the November 2019 meeting of the Immunology Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee, which discussed immunological responses to metal-containing implants and dental amalgam, we heard from several speakers, including those representing underserved communities, who expressed concern about the cumulative effect of mercury vapor exposure from dental amalgam, as well as from other (dietary and environmental) sources.

The FDA continues to believe that the benefits of materials in FDA-approved or cleared implantable and insertable medical devices outweigh their risks for most patients. However, we recognize that it is critical to closely monitor and evaluate new benefit-risk related data as biomedical science is always evolving. We continue to gather input from patients, device manufacturers, researchers, and physicians to learn more about their experiences, ideas, and feedback related to materials in medical devices, such as dental amalgam. We’re committed to advancing new initiatives that are rooted in sound science with a focus on patient safety remaining at the forefront.

Have you ever had this kind of filling before and did it cause issues for you? I for one don’t think I’ve ever been affected but it is scary to think about. Things like this are used widely, and yet they could end up being more of a problem than most want to admit.