If you’ve been to the dentist to have a cavity filled, you may (or may not!) have been offered a choice between the silver filling (also known as dental amalgam) or bone-colored resin (more attractive, as it blends in with the color of your teeth). Although slightly more expensive, added uncertainty about the safety of the mercury-based silver fillings should be enough for pregnant women to choose the resin filling.
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Recently, a U.S. advisory panel declared that it wants the FDA to look at the latest data and reassess its guidance after the agency last year declared the fillings safe. Mercury has been linked to neurological damage at high exposure levels and makes up about 50% of a metal filling. “Vulnerable people” such as children and pregnant/nursing women should be especially wary.
Some dentists and trade groups cite data showing that the fillings pose no harm once set in a patient’s tooth. Other dentists testify that mercury is too risky and that they no longer use such fillings. Dozens of patients also detailed how their health deteriorated after getting amalgams and urged the panel to push FDA to reverse course and initiate strong warnings, especially for children and pregnant or nursing women.
The Environmental Protection Agency lists mercury as a neurotoxin. It can interfere with brain development and cognitive and motor skills. In addition, groups such as Moms Against Mercury and Consumers for Dental Choice say mercury fillings may trigger health problems, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- brain damage
- kidney damage
- multiple sclerosis
- irritability (erethism)
Short of banning amalgams altogether, patients should at the very least be warned about the dangers of these metal fillings and offered a choice. Amalgams have already been banned in some European countries.