The recent mercury spill at Fabella Hospital in Manila once again brought into focus concerns about the use of mercury, its phase-out, and its proper storage.
As of this writing, the Department of Health (DOH) has already announced the successful cleansing of hospital premises but will need further tests and clearance before opening the affected areas for public use.
This news highlighted not only the need for a proper mercury storage facility but also the need for continuous education on handling and managing mercury and mercury-containing products.
In recent years, the local media has done its share of reporting on mercury spills and poisonings. Undeniably, this helped raise public awareness on mercury toxicity and of the possible results if individuals are exposed to deadly mercury vapors.
A primer released by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that “(M)ercury is highly toxic to human health, posing a particular threat to the development of the child.” The primer continues by listing down the number of health effects which includes damage to the nervous, respiratory, and immune system and in some cases, “can be fatal.”
While both public and private hospitals have acknowledged the dangers and appropriately taken steps in removing and managing mercury, the dental health sector is still debating on the safety of dental amalgams aka silver fillings.
Dental Amalgams: What About Them?
Silver fillings are dental restorative materials composed of mercury, silver, tin, copper, and other trace metals. Our previous post, “Dental Amalgams: Why the Fuss?” discusses the risks involved (for dentists and patients) in using dental amalgams.
Research conducted by the International Academy for Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), an organization of academics, scientists, and dentists, have continuously shown that mercury vapors from the amalgams can seep into the body through chewing and drinking. As such, IAOMT has been calling for the removal of dental amalgams and other mercury-containing products in dental health care.
Dr. Lilian Ebuen, head of the Philippine Chapter of IAOMT reiterates that there’s already a government order in place, calling for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to stop using mercury-containing products and it’s about time that the dental sector – including the dentistry schools – to follow suit.
“There are better options such as resin-based composites and atraumatic restorative treatment (ART). These have consistently proven to be more practical, more durable and more affordable than dental amalgams. In fact, developed countries have moved away from using mercury in treating caries altogether.” she adds.
Removal of Dental Amalgams
Patients with dental amalgams and are concerned about their health should consult their dentist. Preferably, look for dentists that are accredited by IAOMT since they are most knowledgeabe and have the skills in dealing with the matter.
For a directory of IAOMT accredited dentists, follow this link
If you’ve decided to get the fillings removed, there are a number of precautions and procedures that must be observed.
1. Ensure that the dentist has the proper equipment in removing amalgams. This is not a simple process and should be approached with caution, the dentist must have “(A)n efficient suction system in the oral cavity with a special tip or its equivalent to contain amalgam particles and mercury vapors.”
2. The dentists and his/her staff must wear protective gear during the removal.
3. Patients should likewise be protected. The patient’s face should be covered with a damp paper towel or a surgical drape.
4. The patient must also be provided with piped-in air so as “to avoid breathing air directly over the mouth during amalgam removal.”
5. The dentists should be applying generous amounts of water during the removal and
6. The amalgam should be removed in large chunks to reduce mercury vapour.
For more information, please email us at
. Our staff is trained in handling dental amalgam related questions and will be more than happy to assist you. For further inquiries, you can check out the IAOMT-Philippine website, http://www.iaomtphilippines.org/