If you have an over-active sugar habit, it is safe to say that you are probably no stranger to the dentist’s drill. Most of us know that so  long as we maintain our daily oral hygiene, and keep our regular dentist visits (going once every 6 months), getting a cavity filled is not a big deal. In fact, it is often seen as a rite of passage. However, the health impact of this time-honored medical procedure is now being called into question.


With news stories about infrastructure debacles such as the water crisis in Flint Michigan, the public eye has turned to the noxious elements that surround us and their impact. One element in particular has taken the brunt of this attention: Mercury. Known to be toxic in high doses to humans, Mercury levels in our food and oceans have been a concern for decades. But that is not the only exposure to this potentially harmful material that we experience. Many of us have Mercury lining our dental fillings and don’t even know it. The question is: Are dental fillings containing mercury bad for your health?

In this article, we will explore amalgam fillings containing mercury: what they are, how they can affect you, and what you can do to limit their damage.

What are amalgam fillings?

Dental amalgam is a filling material used in the treatment of cavities. It is a liquid metallic mix made up of tin, silver copper alloys, and elemental mercury. Due to the grayish color of the completed filling, amalgams are often referred to as “silver fillings”, although silver is only one element of the finished product.

Having a cavity repaired using “mercury-infused” fillings is one of the most common, and oldest, dental procedures still practiced today. For its 150 year history, the method has been used on hundreds of millions of patients world-wide. Known for its durability and affordability, it still remains as one of the more popular treatment for tooth decay.

How do amalgam fillings affect me?

According to the FDA, “Dental amalgam contains elemental mercury. It releases low levels of mercury in the form of a vapor that can be inhaled and absorbed by the lungs. High levels of mercury vapor exposure are associated with adverse effects in the brain and the kidneys.”

It seems that although mercury has been associated with many serious health concerns, the amount used in silver fillings is acceptable for patients six years of age and up. So if you have one dental filling that contains mercury, you do not have much cause for concern. However, there is always “bioaccumulation” …

Bioaccumulation is defined by the dictionary as “The accumulation of a substance, such as a toxic chemical, in various tissues of a living organism. Bioaccumulation takes place within an organism when the rate of intake of a substance is greater than the rate of excretion or metabolic transformation of that substance.” In layman’s terms, that means: You are taking in something bad for you at a rate that is higher than the body can get rid of it.

[ Seen here: a bioaccumulation of calories ]

Of course, only having one filling won’t cause an unsafe accumulation of mercury. But, if you have chronic oral health issues, you could have multiple amalgam fillings. With multiple silver fillings, comes a dramatic increase in health risks. The following is a list of mercury poisoning symptoms, if you are experiencing these issues we recommend consulting with a medical professional as soon as possible: mood swings, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, headaches, muscle spasms or atrophy, tremors, and decreased cognitive functions.

What do I do if I have amalgam fillings?

If you are concerned with complications resulting from having too many mercury fillings, we recommend making an appointment with your general dentist as quickly as you can. Your doctor will be able to tell you what your fillings are comprised of, their general condition, and if you should consider having them removed.

Most doctors will not recommend removing multiple fillings on a whim. It is very possible to damage your oral health even more by putting your mouth through the kind of trauma that the removal of a filling can cause. This policy is also backed by the official position of the FDA .


If you only have a couple of fillings containing mercury, and they are all in good shape (not damaged in a way where mercury is leaking into your system), your doctor will most likely recommend keeping them. However, if you think that you may have an allergy to mercury, copper, tin, or silver, make sure to mention it to your dentist. We recommend consulting with your doctor before deciding to undertake any medical procedure and following their advice.