Dentists Passionately Diasgree About Amalgam Fillings

Editorial
by Jim Du Molin

Ten Ways Mercury Raises Strong Feelings Among Dentists

I knew I was stepping in a big pile of controversy when I recently decided to run a survey about mercury fillings, but I was curious to see where you all stand on the issue.

If I was hoping for a clear answer one way or the other, I certainly didn’t get it! You dentists are split right down the middle on this one. You sent in a record number of responses to this question. (Read the dentists’ comments.)

Well, let me resolve the issue once and for all in this short article.

Ha! Just kidding. I don’t pretend to be a clinical expert or a scientific researcher; I’m just a marketing guy who knows a lot about dental practices. All I can do is give you my take on the issue.

Let me respond to some of the issues – both for and against mercury amalgam – most commonly raised by dentists.

 

  • People don’t want silver fillings because they’re ugly.
    There’s no denying the fact that we live in a cosmetically conscious society. Last year, Julia Roberts received some heat from the press when a photographer captured not just her laugh but a mouthful of silver fillings as well.
  • Silver fillings can last for 50 years.
    It’s true, but silver fillings also break down.
  • It’s not clear that composite materials are safe.
    It’s true that composites have not been proven to be safe (scientifically, it’s hard to prove anything is safe), but studies have also not indicated they’re dangerous, and they don’t seem to pose the same risks as silver/mercury fillings.
  • It’s public fear-mongering to question the safety of amalgam.
    We still have freedom of speech, right? It’s a valid concern, and it’s the right of a free society to discuss any issue.
  • The ADA and the FDA say amalgam is safe.
    Let’s talk to the FDA about a few other things too: Agent Orange, thalidomide, DDT…
  • How can it be safe inside your body but toxic waste outside of it?
    It actually can become more dangerous as you remove it. Many dentists who remove but do not place amalgam fillings have high levels of mercury in their systems. It’s like asbestos – most toxic during removal.
  • Amalgam works better in some situations.
    Did I say I was a dentist? You’re the doctor trained to make clinical decisions. If you want to use amalgam on DL of #31 with poor moisture control and a patient who doesn’t floss, that’s your call to make. But is there really any need for a 3-surface amalgam?
  • Mercury is a health hazard to dental professionals.
    This is absolutely true, and I hope it’s something you’re aware of and test for. I knew a dentist who bought an old practice not realizing the whole place was saturated with mercury. After the staff of five women suffered three miscarriages in five years, they finally did a toxicology study. You wouldn’t believe how expensive it was to decontaminate.
  • Silver amalgam is a clinical issue, not a marketing one.
    You’re a dentist, so you might see it that way. I’m a marketer, and to me it’s a marketing issue. First, composites let you avoid the safety issues of mercury. Second, restorations look better with composite materials. Seems pretty straightforward to me.
  • Calling it “mercury amalgam” reveals your bias.
    Listen, I tried as hard as I could to keep the wording of my survey neutral. I understand that many of you prefer the term “silver amalgam.” To me, that’s a linguistic question. The term amalgam used to mean a mercury-based mixture of metals, but it has come to mean any homogenous mixture. According to the older definition, the material would be called “silver amalgam,” while the modern popular definition leads to the phrase “mercury amalgam.”

 

 

Many thanks to all the dentists who responded to our poll; your comments were invaluable.

If you disagree with anything I’ve said here, I blame it all on the dentists who left me their comments. No, I’m kidding – I’m prepared to take whatever you’ve got. I know I’m standing in the middle of a lightning storm here!

Share your own thoughts about the dangers of mercury or the benefits of silver amalgam fillings!

Jim Du Molin

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