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FDA Rules Mercury Amalgam Fillings Safe

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's long-awaited final regulation on the use of mercury amalgam for dental fillings issued Tuesday deems the material safe, while at the same time moving the material from the Class I (low risk) medical-device category to Class II (moderate risk). This allows for tighter control over its manufacture and use. The agency had been working toward the regulation since 2002; many dental professionals were concerned that the final ruling would impose restrictions on amalgam's use.

Mercury amalgam, or "silver," fillings have been used for decades to repair cavities. It's the cheapest filling material available, and the American Dental Association (which supports the new regulation) has long warned that restricting its use would deprive dentists of an important tool and likely move needed dental work beyond the reach of low-income patients. But many people have raised concerns about the potential for mercury to "leak" from fillings into the body and cause neurological damage or diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

An FDA press release announcing the decision reports: "While elemental mercury has been associated with adverse health effects at high exposures, the levels released by dental amalgam fillings are not high enough to cause harm in patients."

Still, the agency suggests that amalgam package labels feature a warning to patients about the risk of mercury allergy, a reminder to dental professionals about the risk of working with mercury amalgam without proper ventilation, and "a statement discussing the scientific evidence on the benefits and risk of dental amalgam, including the risks of inhaled mercury vapor. The statement will help dentists and patients make informed decisions about the use of dental amalgam," according to the press release.

Last year the FDA expressed caution about mercury amalgam's use in pregnant women and young children. But the new ruling reverses that stance, saying amalgam is safe for most patients, except those allergic to mercury. The agency reviewed some 200 scientific studies in reaching its decision.

Does this new regulation convince you that mercury amalgam fillings are safe?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 29, 2009; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Environmental Toxins , Family Health , General Health  
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No! All those warning about the use and still mercury in fillings, which degrade over time is safe? Besides the research that is quite damning about the use of mercury? Too much lobbying from those with a vested interest in keeping the mercury in is the problem with this and other important matters that the feds and Congress/President decide. The cost rationale detracts from another real issue-need for dental coverage for all, currently under heavy debate in Congress with MUCH lobbying by the 'health care industry' which is very opposed to any proposal that might interfere with their right to make money off of us taking care of our health. Its a disgrace! And we can be sure to lobby for our right to decent and reasonably priced health care.

Posted by: valeriedc | July 29, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

"Does this new regulation convince you that mercury amalgam fillings are safe?"

I thought it was safe even before the FDA announcement.

Posted by: steveh46 | July 29, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

My dentist hasn't used them in years; I'm not sure if the change was because of mercury concerns, cosmetic concerns (he markets them as looking better, and they do, but I'm not sure if that was why they switched), or some other pet reason of his.

To be honest I didn't realize others still did.

Posted by: | July 29, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Both the ADA and the AMA were founded on mercury poisoning issues. The ADA was founded around 1850 in order to get rid of an association of dental surgeons who were very much opposed to dental amalgam. The ADA won because in those days mercury in all its forms was still believed to be a wonder drug. The AMA was founded to keep mercury in the medicine cabinet. Today we know more.

So I would be loath to count those two organizations in as impartial bystanders. But I do believe that when the discussion comes to healthcare, the new healthcare bill should include a merger of the two outfits. The FDA is only the water-carrier here albeit a very powerful one.

The FDA must be revamped to reflect an unbiased view of the mercury issue. It's not just dental amalgam. It's about Thimerosal in vaccines which has been treated in a very similar casual way as the dental amalgam issue. The health issues emanating from mercury are not just autism, multiple sclerosis, depression, ADHD etc. They also include dementia and all kinds of psychological problems that are too numerous to list here.

Posted by: bcalhoun1 | July 29, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I think they are safe and all the statistical evidence backs that up. In fact, good dental care which includes amalgam...has excellent statistical evidence that it extends lifespan by reducing systemic cardiovascular disease in part generated in the past by bloodstream inflammation from untreated tooth decay.

Part of the problem is people who think that if a large dose of something is bad, ANY amount must be bad. No, we need things like a certain amount of bacteria to stimulate immune systems. Hyperclean families with twice daily scrubbed children and antibacterial dispensers everywhere are frequently sickly families. Arsenic is a poison, but trace amounts are indispensible to metabolic processes in life. Same with trace amounts of flouride, iodine, copper, cobalt, etc.

People living in some of the most radioactive areas or with high mercury levels, lead levels, have the longest lifespans. And it is GOOD that uranium and thorium are common metals - because without radioactivity, no molten Earth's core, and the Earth would have no protective magnetic field, and the solar wind would have stripped away our atmosphere.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | July 29, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

There are different views on fibromyalgia although all are based on the constant pain that produces the disease and although not yet really know the accurate cure for it, I have my father suffering from this disease and I am interested in the topic to be able to help their pain to dissipate in any way and have read many books on fibromyalgia and chronic pain and to find findrxonline indicate that opioid narcotics for pain control are excerpts from the opium and are very effective and are commonly used to control and remove moderate to severe pain, these drugs are controlled NARCOTICS opioids which required a medical prescription.
For the effectiveness and suppression for the management of pain, narcotic analgesics opioid medicine is indicated for the treatment of cancer pain, pain caused by trauma, postoperative pain, neuropathic pain, the pain is still severe.

Posted by: healthpain | July 29, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

another example of lobbyists, in this case the dental lobby and the mercury production industry, swaying a decision of the Federal Government! now i would have fully expected that Bush and Cheney would have been heavily influenced by the dental and mercury lobbies, but the voice of change and hope, Obama? OMG am i shocked! the powerful lobbies once again hold sway in the nation's capitol! or maybe rogue elements at the FDA, recently uprooted at the CIA, have taken command of the ship at FDA to give Obama a bad name! blame it on Bush? blame it on Cheney? maybe the evil hand of Darth Biden is on this dirty soiled weapon? Where is Nancy Pelosi when we need her? of course, either at the capital bar and grill or having her teeth (tooth?) cleaned!

Posted by: RoguesPalace | July 29, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

As a dentist in the UK, I spent in excess of 35 years using dental amalgam all day, every day so my exposure to mercury must have been much higher then any patient would experience. I have been retired for 5 years, I am pretty healthy, my brain seems OK (I think) so, provided it is handled with care, I don't see any undue danger in it.
The environmental problems could be different matter. Today's surgeries should no longer put waste into the water courses but how many tons of mercury are discharged to the atmosphere from crematoria?

Posted by: Chris1944 | July 29, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I've had a mouthful of mercury amalgam for decades. Plus, when I was a child (maybe 10 or so), I would deliberately break thermometers and shake the mercury out so I could play with it. I must have absorbed a certain amount doing that -- had no clue that it was dangerous. If the mercury was lethal, or caused neurological problems, surely I would have had some kind of difficulty, but I haven't.

My dentist still uses amalgam, along with composite and gold for those who prefer them. He says he believes it's safe, and it's cost-effective.

If you don't want the stuff in your mouth, that's cool -- at least there are alternatives now. But it's over the top to start coming up with all these conspiracy theories about all the evil lobbyists. I just can't believe that the dental amalgam lobby is all that big and powerful.

Posted by: sally1860 | July 29, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

My understanding is that composite can't handle larger fillings the way amalgam can; it does also cost more. On the other hand, my dentist claims that amalgam eventually leads to tooth breakage as it is less elastic and therefore can act like a wedge in tooth.

I'd rather see kids get amalgam than have rotting teeth. I'd also rather see kids not have tooth decay - I have seen the miracles that proper prevention can work (especially sealants); in my health care reform dream, we all agree to fully fund preventive dental care for everyone under the age of 18, while continuing to fight over all the other issues.

In the big picture, the mercury exposure due to amalgam is not that important - let's get a minimal level of health and dental care available to kids first, and then start looking for perfection - by then, we might have made caries a thing of the past, or have perfected tooth regeneration.

A nice dream, but it is attainable.

Posted by: drmary | July 29, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Get gold if you can. Put the mercury in the vaults.

Posted by: Dermitt | July 29, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I love when people use anecdotal evidence. Not everybody is the same, some are more susceptible to toxins/allergens than others. Nuts are good for my health, yet provoke violent allergic reactions in some. I wonder if the statement that the number of mercury amalgam fillings correlated to the amount of mercury measured in corpses. What's my RDA of mercury?

Posted by: enemil | July 29, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

With the ill advised forced march to mercury fluorescent bulbs by wingnut warmists, get ready for REAL levels of mercury to rise in your adipose tissue as elemental mercury works it way up the food chain to your brain. Just as Rachel Carlson caused millions in africa to perish to malaria with a ban on DDT, Gore-Pelosi are doing the same thing to their own country.

Posted by: georgejones5 | July 29, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Mercury is a neurotoxin. It leaches out of amalgam fillings and goes guessed it. Into your body. It will poison you. The FDA and ADA are in collusion and are both liars. Do not get mercury amalgam fillings placed in your mouth unless you want to seriously endanger your health.

Posted by: tripsam | July 29, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

In response to DrMary suggesting Amqalgam fillings lead to more tooth fractures it should be noted that for years we dentists have known that conservative tooth preparation using round cutting tips reduces future tooth fractures manyfold. Be sure your dentist is practicing this way. Note: in the last half of my dental practice I restored teeth mostly using composites always explaining the pros and cons.

Posted by: sfguy1 | August 4, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

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