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The “Ask A Toxicologist” program is part of a growing effort by the College to improve public awareness and education regarding the toxicity of medication interactions, occupational chemicals, new drugs of abuse, venoms and plant toxins. The goal of the program is to provide rational, evidence-based answers to common medical toxicology questions – clearly and concisely. Members of the public are encouraged to submit questions through for review by a panel of experts in human poisoning, who will post a consensus opinion written by one expert in the field. There is no charge for this service.
Questions relating to an individual’s health concerns cannot be answered, as the program cannot create or replace a doctor-patient relationship. Additionally, we are unable to provide counsel, advice or interpretation for any legal issue. Questions and answers should be of a general nature, and of interest to a wide population. Not all questions will be able to be addressed.
Ask A Toxicologist
I have mercury containing dental amalgams. Am I at risk of developing mercury poisoning if I don’t have them removed?
posted on 7:14 PM, December 9, 2013
It is easy to be confused about whether mercury containing dental amalgams can cause harm. There is a lot of contradictory information available on the internet regarding this topic. This concern has been studied scientifically and there is no evidence that poisoning occurs from mercury containing amalgams. In fact, the American College of Medical Toxicology recently included the recommendation to NOT remove dental amalgams as one of their five items in the Choosing Wisely campaign.
Most people have small, measurable amounts of mercury that can be detected in their urine, regardless of whether they have mercury containing amalgams or any other history of exposure to mercury. However, people who have mercury containing amalgams often do have slightly higher concentrations of mercury in their urine than those without amalgams. The concentration remains very low however, and within the range of ‘normal’ for a healthy population.
There are concerns with removing amalgams for this purpose. One is that the mercury in the amalgams becomes more available for absorption into the body during the removal process. Another is that unnecessary removal of the amalgams subjects the person to risks associated with the procedure, such as those from anesthesia, and to the high costs associated with the procedure.
It is important to remember that whatever the substance, development of poisoning depends on the dose to which one is exposed. In the case of mercury, the amount to which a person is exposed simply from having dental amalgams is just not enough to produce harm. The best thing to do is just leave them alone, unless there is another reason for having the amalgams removed.