Mercury Safe Dentistry: Protect Your Patients – and Yourself

Mercury safe dentistry: protect patients and staff from mercury amalgam exposureDr. Tom McGuire, DDS, a leading authority on the occupational safety of mercury in the dental office, addresses the sometimes confusing difference between “mercury free dentists” and “mercury safe dentists,” and makes the argument that all dentists should be practicing mercury safe dentistry – and why.

Mercury Free and Mercury Safe: What’s in a Name?

Strictly speaking, the term “mercury free” refers to dentists who do not put amalgam fillings in their patients’ teeth. But over time, the term “mercury free” came to indicate those dentists who not only didn’t put amalgam fillings into their patients teeth, but those who also safely removed them.

However, mercury free isn’t really an accurate description because as long as dentists still remove amalgam fillings, their offices can’t officially be called “mercury free.” Therefore, mercury safe is a more accurate description of those who not only don’t put amalgam fillings in teeth, but also remove them as safely as possible. Another way to put it is that safely removing amalgam fillings means you are dramatically reducing the occupational exposure to mercury at the dental office.

Thus, I encourage true mercury free dentists to use the term “mercury safe” to describe themselves if they not only do not place amalgam fillings but also use a safe protocol to remove them. There can also be distinct promotional advantages to being mercury safe. (You can click to access a list of amalgam removal protocols and read why they are so important.)

While I absolutely respect the right of pro-amalgam dentists to expose themselves to mercury, I don’t believe they have the right to expose their patients, their staff and the environment to mercury – just because they’ve chosen to believe what the ADA tells them; that mercury amalgam fillings are safe.

It’s one thing to believe that the mercury released from a patient’s amalgam fillings on a daily basis isn’t a health hazard. But it’s another thing entirely not to offer the dental patient protection against mercury vapor exposure during the removal process. These are really two separate issues because there’s a huge difference between the amount of mercury emitted from the fillings on a daily basis and the amount released during their removal at the dental office, up to 1000 times more during unsafe removal.

The only effective way to protect the patient, the dentist and staff, and the environment from unnecessary and excessive exposure to elemental mercury vapor is to make your office mercury safe. I simply can’t imagine the ADA not supporting the practice of mercury safe dentistry.

Amazingly, the dental profession uses more mercury per year than any other business. In fact, it’s the only industry using elemental mercury that isn’t regulated by the government.

Written by Tom McGuire, DDS

Tom McGuire, DDS

Dr Tom McGuire, DDS, expert on mercury safety in the dental officeDr. McGuire and Dr. Paul Rubin will be presenting a one-day seminar on “How to Make Your Practice Mercury Safe” in San Francisco on September 26 and in Portland, OR on October 10. Learn more at unique seminar is the only one of its kind available to dentists and nothing you could do for your practice will be as important to you, your staff and your patients’ as making your office Mercury Safe.


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