The ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury is a fantastic step in terms of protecting the environment and people’s health. However, as countries are exploring strategies to limit mercury use in industries and other sectors, the issue of mercury use in dentistry remains a subject of debate.
Supporters claim that studies on the toxicity of dental mercury are inconclusive and for poor or developing countries such as the Philippines, dental amalgam fillings are practical. Based on an oral health survey conducted by the Department of Health, revealed that 97 percent of six-year old children suffer from tooth decay and the condition continue to deteriorate as they grow older. Given this premise, the use of dental amalgam fillings appears reasonable.
Then on the other side of the debate, we have critics who are actually armed with numerous data and research on the dangers of dental mercury. Mercury, despite its many practical uses, is still toxic. In fact, it is one of the most deadly toxin known to man. The World Health Organisation even stated in a report that mercury has no safe level of exposure. Meaning, even the minutest vapour can wreak havoc on one’s health and the environment. Scientific research or none, common sense dictates that you should not put any toxic material in your mouth – or anywhere on your body – for that matter. Yet, supporters remain resolute.
Dental amalgam fillings, which is 50 percent mercury, may be the cheapest dental restorative material available today but the consequences associated with its use simply outweigh the benefits. Before we introduce mercury-free alternatives, think about these reasons why dental mercury use should cease.
• Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin. It can easily seep into the bloodstream and penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and children are particularly vulnerable.
• Dentists, dental technicians, and other dental professionals are exposed to mercury vapours on a daily basis. According to a study by IAOMT-Philippines and BAN Toxics!, dental facilities that use dental mercury emit high levels of mercury vapour.
• Dentistry students are equally exposed to mercury vapours as the dentistry syllabus requires students to handle/use or hone their skills using dental amalgam fillings.
• Dental mercury waste is one of the largest contributors to mercury pollution in the air, ground, and water.
With the Minamata Convention soon to take effect, this is the best time to explore mercury-free dental restorative treatment.
Composite Resin Fillings. This dental filling is made from a type of plastic reinforced with powdered glass. It’s advantage is that it’s color can be made to match surrounding teeth, making it aesthetically pleasing. However, this treatment is expensive and has an average lifespan of only seven to eight years.
Critics have cited that composites leach BPA – a toxic substance that can cause cancer but based on the findings of several prestigious bodies including dental organizations such as The British Dental Association, The Canada Dental Association, and The US Dental Association attest to its safety. In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics also stated that, “On the basis of the proven benefits of resin-based dental materials and the brevity of BPA exposure, we recommend continued use...On the basis of the substantiated preventive benefits of resin-based dental sealants and given the brevity of elevated exposure to BPA after sealant application, we recommend continuing application of resin-based sealants in dental practice and in school-based/school-linked dental-sealant programs.”
Glass Ionomer Cement Fillings. Similar to composites, except this treatment is only recommended for small restorative work. Aside from its aesthetic advantage, glass ionomer also releases fluoride over time.
Gold Foil Fillings. Gold has a long history of use and it was once the popular choice given that it is a sturdy and reliable filling. Gold’s disadvantages are, it does not match teeth color, it conducts heat and cold, and expensive.
Ceramics. Stain resistant and strong, ceramics is a strong contender but this filling is abrasive and as expensive as gold.
Total Body Dentistry is a mercury-free dental clinic and only use safe materials such as composites and glass ionomers for treating dental caries. As dentists, we have a responsibility and obligation of protecting the oral health of our communities. As a patient, you should exercise your right and ask for adequate information regarding treatments.
For more info, you can visit our clinic or send us an email at
A Study on Mercury Levels of Ambient Air in Dental Clinics and its Impacts on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) and the Environment. Unpublished.