How to Share Your Concerns About Dental Mercury With Your Dentist
Every dentist has his/her own opinions about mercury based on education, experiences, and sources of trade information. Some dentists do not use mercury because it is known to be harmful, while others defend it because they were taught in the past to believe it is not dangerous.
While positions on mercury vary widely within the field of dentistry, these talking points should assist you in discussing the topic with your dentist.
1. Remember your rights as a patient at all times.
As a patient, you have the right to know what is being put in your mouth. You also have the right to express concerns about any treatment offered to you, including the use of mercury/amalgam/silver fillings, all of which contain approximately 50% mercury. As part of your patient rights, you can ask to see the “Safety Data Sheet” (formerly called an “MSDS”) for mercury fillings and other dental materials. These descriptive sheets explain health hazards of chemical products. Additionally, some states, such as California, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, have fact sheets about dental mercury which dentists are supposed to give to their patients. Share what you have already learned, and ask your dentist about the procedure and materials used.
2. Bring copies of any documents of interest you have already found with you to your dental visit.
It is one thing to tell your dentist about something you read, but it quite another to have a copy with you. This means doing your own research before your appointment. In particular, you should explore potential health risks that directly relate to you and your family. The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) has a position statement that identifies risks of mercury to children, fetuses, and patients with adverse health conditions such as cardiovascular problems and multiple sclerosis. Collect material about specific dangers mercury might pose to you and your family based on personal conditions such as being of child- bearing age, pregnant, a child, or an individual with kidney ailments or other susceptibilities, and use these documents as discussion points.
3. Find out about regulations to phase down and end the use of mercury due to health and environmental concerns.
For example, Norway, Sweden, Japan, and Switzerland have all restricted or banned amalgam. France has recommended that alternative mercury-free dental materials be used for pregnant women, and Germany, Finland, Austria, and Canada have reduced the use of dental mercury amalgam fillings for pregnant women, children, and patients with kidney problems. Additionally, over 100 countries, including the U.S., have agreed on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s “Minamata Convention on Mercury,” which calls for phasing down the use of dental mercury amalgam. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a rule that would prevent dentists from releasing amalgam/mercury waste down the drain. Check with your dentist about new regulations so that you both have the most up-to-date information.
4. Understand that dentists cannot, per the American Dental Association, tell you to have your fillings removed for toxicological reasons.
The ADA states that “removal of amalgam restorations from the non- allergic patient solely for the alleged purpose of removing toxic substances from the body, when such treatment is performed at the recommendation or suggestion of the dentist, is improper and unethical.” Indeed, some dentists have been disciplined and/or fined for speaking out against dental mercury and encouraging its removal. Keep in mind that your dentist might not want to discuss mercury removal from a toxicological perspective.
5. If you are having your amalgam fillings removed, read about precautions that can be taken to protect you and your dentist from additional mercury exposures.
For more information, see our Safe Amalgam Removal page for patients by clicking here. Be familiar with procedures that can expose you to mercury releases, and take action with your dentist to prevent harm from these events.