Yes, mercury can leech from your fillings. But as years of studies have shown, it won’t put you at risk, says Dr. Grace Yum, a dentist in Chicago. What may have a harmful effect on your health (and that of others), though, is the way your dentist disposes of the mercury after he installs your fillings.
Dental fillings that contain mercury are typically referred to as “amalgam fillings.” They consist of other metals too, like silver, tin and copper. If dentists allow amalgam to go down sink drains, mercury can accumulate in the water supply and harm the environment. As a result, many dentists choose to install amalgam separators that capture the mercury for recycling. But as of now, the use of amalgam separators is voluntary and isn’t mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency yet.
Luckily, amalgam fillings are falling out of favor: “For cosmetic reasons, patients almost always prefer white composite fillings,” says Yum. It just so happens that composites work out better for your health -- and our planet too.Curious about another health or lifestyle issue? Tweet us your question @Completely_You, and we’ll get an expert to answer Expert Q&A Archive
Alice Lesch Kelly
is a freelance medical writer who has covered women’s health, nutrition and oral health for print publications and the Web. She has co-written four books on women’s health. Her articles frequently appear in Completely You.