It was a long time coming, but the FDA finally issued guidelines acknowledging that “silver” mercury amalgam fillings can and do pose a risk to human health. The agency now holds that some people “may be at greater risk for potential harmful health effects of mercury vapor released from the device”:
- Pregnant and nursing mothers.
- Women who plan on pregnancy.
- Children, especially those under the age of 6.
- People with neurological conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
- People with impaired kidney function.
- People with known sensitivities to mercury or other components of amalgam.
The change in tune follows a new wealth of public input on medical devices like amalgam, followed by hearings to discuss immunological responses to amalgam and other metal-containing implants. It took a lot of work from a lot of people to create this change – a first step, we hope, toward an ultimate phase-out of this toxic and outdated material.
For as Dr. Jack Krall, executive chair of the IAOMT, noted in a news release, “Mercury shouldn’t be placed in anyone’s mouth.”
All dental patients need to be protected, and dentists and their staff also need to be protected from working with this toxic substance.
Meantime, pro-amalgam dentists say that the new guidelines are a big nothing burger. To a certain extent, they’re right. The FDA offered “guidance,” not regulation. Any dentist can go on doing exactly as they want to do.
And in their own news release on the change, the “ADA reaffirm[ed] its position that dental amalgam is a durable, safe and effective cavity-filling option.” And the onus is put on patients to talk with their dentists about amalgam – and hope they’re given all the information they need to make a truly informed decision.
According to one survey, barely 10% of patients said that their dentist had told them that amalgam contains mercury. Nearly 66% said that their dentist did NOT give them enough information on alternatives to mercury so they could make an informed choice.
Still, the new guidance IS a step forward – and an important one. It’s a step away from the idea that mercury amalgam is totally safe for everyone. We applaud that.
And then we get back to the important work of continuing our journey toward a mercury-free future.