Amalgam — Resurrection and Redemption Part 2:
The Medical Mythology of Anti-Amalgam
Michael J. Wahl, D.D.S.
Dental amalgam filling material has come under attack for its alleged effects on systemic health, its alleged poor physical properties and clinical performance, and finally, for its unacceptable cosmetic appearance [1-7]. Most reviews of the literature [8-15], however, have concluded that except for rare cases of allergy to amalgam , amalgam is safe. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, some anti-amalgamists still question the safety of mercury-containing amalgam restorations [7,17,18]. A close look at the literature on dental amalgam, resin composites, and other restorative materials reveals that most of the anti-amalgamists’ assertions are based not on scientific facts, but rather on a collection of myths and half-truths, creating a virtual “folklore” of anti-amalgam that has rarely been challenged. This mythology of anti-amalgam is discussed below. After years of unanswered criticism and declining use, it is time for the resurrection and redemption of dental amalgam. In a previous article, we examined the clinical and legal mythology of anti-amalgam. In the present article, we will examine the medical mythology of anti-amalgam.
- Myth #1: Amalgam restorations leak large amounts of mercury.
- Myth #2: Mercury from dental amalgam causes kidney damage.
- Myth #3: Mercury from dental amalgam causes Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases of the central nervous system.
- Myth #4: Mercury from dental amalgam fillings causes a variety of symptoms of “amalgam illness.”
- Myth #5: Mercury from dental amalgam fillings causes mental disease.
- Myth #6: Mercury from amalgam fillings damages the immune system.
- Myth #7: Mercury from dental amalgams causes significant increases in antibiotic-resistance in humans.
- Myth #8: Mercury from dental amalgam causes harmful reproductive effects to both patients, dentists, and dental assistants.
- Myth #9: Mercury from dental amalgam can be dangerous to dentists; therefore, it is hazardous to patients.
- Myth #10: There are no health concerns about the components of composite resins, glass ionomers, and other nonamalgam materials.
- Simonsen RJ. Move over amalgam at last. Quintessence Int 1995;26:157.
- Christensen GJ. The death of amalgam is imminentAre you ready? Dent Econ 1999;89(6):34.
- Lutz FU, Krejci I, Oddera M. Advanced adhesive restorations: the post-amalgam age. Pract Perio & Aesth Dent 1996;8:385-94.
- Dickerson WG. Integrating cosmetic dentistry into a busy practice. Dent Econ 1997;87(1):30-6.
- Dickerson WG. Why is esthetic dentistry grouped with the outlaws? Dent Econ 1998;88(12):42-46,105.
- Maroon M. The fab five. The Dental Leader, March, 1998:2-3.
- Lorscheider FL, Vimy MJ, Summers AO. Mercury exposure from “silver” tooth fillings: emerging evidence questions a traditional dental paradigm. FASEB J 1998;9:504-8.
- Mjör IA. Biological side effects to materials used in dentistry. J R Coll Surg Edinb 1999;44:146-9.
- Eley BM. The future of dental amalgam: a review of the literature. Part 6: Possible harmful effects of mercury from dental amalgam. Br Dent J 1997;182:455-59.
- Eneström S, Hultman P. Does amalgam affect the immune system? A controversial issue. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 1995;106:180-203.
- Jones DW. The enigma of amalgam in dentistry. J Can Dent Assoc 1993;59:155-66.
- Mackert JR. Dental amalgam and mercury. JADA 1991;122(8):54-61.
- Fung YK, Molvar MP. Toxicity of mercury from dental environment and from amalgam restorations. Clin Toxicol 1992;30:49-61.
- Li Y, Siew C, Shearer BG, ADA Council on Scientific Affairs. Dental amalgam: update on safety concerns. JADA 1998;129:494-503.
- Mackert JR, Berglund A. Mercury exposure from dental amalgam fillings: absorbed dose and the potential for adverse health effects. Crit Rev Oral Biol Med 1997;8:410-36.
- Laine J, Konttinen YT, Beliaev N, Happonen R-P. Immunocompetent cells in amalgam-associated oral lichenoid contact lesions. J Oral Pathol Med 1999;28:117-21.
- Pleva J. Dental mercury a public health hazard. Rev Environ Health 1994;10:1-27.
- Hanson M, Pleva J. The dental amalgam issue. A review. Experientia 1991;47:9-22.
- Wahl MJ. Amalgam — resurrection and redemption: Part 1. The clinical and legal mythology of anti-amalgam. Quintessence Int 2001;32:525–535.
Dr. Wahl practices dentistry in Wilmington, Delaware. This article was originally published in Quintessence International 32:696-710, 2001, and is reproduced here with the kind permission permission of Quintessence Publishing Co. The author thanks Drs. J. Rodway Mackert, Ivar A. Mjör, and Fred Eichmiller for reading the manuscript and offering several helpful suggestions.
This page was posted on November 1, 2002.