Mercury Fillings: Dental Amalgam Side Effects and Reactions

Sick patient in bed with doctor discussing reactions and side effects due to mercury toxicity

Dental amalgam side effects and reactions as a result of the mercury in these fillings vary by patient due to individualized risk factors.

If everyone experienced the same reactions to and side effects of environmental toxicants, it would be obvious to everyone, as well as their doctors, that exposure to a specific toxic material results in a definitive outcome– the exact same illness. However, research has demonstrated that individuals respond to environmental toxicants like dental amalgam mercury in a way that is unique to their own bodies.

Dental Amalgam Mercury: What is it?

Millions of dentists around the world routinely use dental amalgam as a filling material in decayed teeth.  Often referred to as “silver fillings,” all dental amalgams actually consist of 45-55% metallic mercury.   Mercury is a known neurotoxin that can cause harm to humans, especially children, pregnant women, and fetuses.  A 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) report warned of mercury: “It may cause harmful effects to the nervous, digestive, respiratory, immune systems and to the kidneys, besides causing lung damage. Adverse health effects from mercury exposure can be: tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, emotional instability, developmental deficits during fetal development, and attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood. Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.”[1]

There is a global effort spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme to reduce mercury usage, including that of dental mercury,[2] and some countries have already banned its use.[3]  However, amalgams are still used for about 45% of all direct dental restorations worldwide,[4] including in the United States.  In fact, it has been estimated that there are currently over 1,000 tons of mercury in the mouths of Americans, which is more than half of all the mercury being used in the U.S. today.[5]

Reports and research are consistent that these mercury-containing fillings emit mercury vapors,[6] [7] [8] and while these restorations are commonly referred to as “silver fillings,” “dental amalgam,” and/or “amalgam fillings,” [9] the public is often unaware that amalgam refers to the combination of other metals with mercury.[10]

Dental Amalgam Side Effects and Reactions Linked to Mercury in Fillings

Properly diagnosing “adverse health effects” related to dental mercury amalgam fillings is impeded by the intricate list of potential responses to the elemental form of the substance, which include over 250 specific symptoms.[11]  The table below is a brief listing of some of the symptoms most commonly associated with inhalation of elemental mercury vapors (which is the same type of mercury continually emitted from dental amalgam fillings):

Symptoms most commonly associated with inhalation of elemental mercury vapors
Acrodynia or similar symptoms such as emotional instability, loss of appetite, general weakness, and skin changes[12]
Cardiovascular problems/ labile pulse [frequent changes in heart rate]/tachycardia [abnormally rapid heartbeat] [14]
Cognitive/neurological/impairments/memory loss/decrease in mental function/difficulties with verbal and visual processing[15] [16] [17] [18] [19]
Delusions/delirium/hallucination[20] [21]
Dermatological conditions/ dermographism [skin condition characterized by raised red marks]/dermatitis[22] [23]
Endocrine disruption/enlargement of thyroid[24] [25]
Erethism [symptoms such as irritability, abnormal responses to stimulation, and emotional instability] [26] [27] [28] [29]
Fatigue[30] [31]
Hearing loss[33]
Immune system impairments[34] [35]
Nerve response changes/peripheral neuropathy/decreased coordination/decreased motor function/ polyneuropathy/ neuromuscular changes such as weakness, muscle atrophy, and twitching[37] [38] [39] [40] [41]
Oral manifestations/ gingivitis/metallic taste/ oral lichenoid lesions/[42][43][44][45] [46] [47]
Psychological issues/mood changes related to anger, depression, excitability, irritability, mood swings, and nervousness[48] [49] [50] [51]
Renal [kidney] problems/ proteinuria/nephrotic syndrome[52] [53] [54] [55] [56] [57]
Respiratory problems/ bronchial irritation/bronchitis/cough/ dyspnea [breathing difficulties]/ pneumonitis/ respiratory failure[58] [59] [60] [61] [62] [63] [64]
Shyness [excessive shyness]/social withdrawal[65] [66]
Tremors/mercurial tremors/ intention tremors[67] [68] [69] [70] [71]
Weight loss[72]

Not all patients will experience the same symptom or combination of symptoms. Moreover, in addition to the symptoms above, an extensive number of studies have documented risks for other health conditions associated with dental amalgam.  In fact, scientists have associated the mercury in amalgam fillings with Alzheimer’s disease,[73] [74] [75] amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease),[76] antibiotic resistance,[77] [78][79][80] anxiety,[81] autism spectrum disorders