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FDA Admits Silver Dental Fillings May Not Be Safe

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Updated: June 10, 2008

Amalgam dental fillings, more commonly known as silver or mercury fillings, have long been a subject of debate over patient safety since the filling material contains about 50% mercury and 50% of various other metals.

While there have been no conclusive studies relating the mercury in amalgam to any dangers, mercury by itself is very toxic.

Since 2002 the U.S. FDA (Federal Drug Administration) has classified amalgam dental fillings as a class II device, basically meaning that there are no restrictions placed on amalgam filling materials.

In an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed by the group Moms Against Mercury the FDA agreed in June 2008 to change their website to acknowledge the possible dangers associated with amalgam fillings. The FDA now admits that mercury vapor is released during chewing on an amalgam filling and also when the silver fillings are placed and removed from the teeth.

Because silver amalgam fillings contain mercury, the FDA website declares these fillings could have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing fetuses and children. The website goes on to further state that, "Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner."

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating medical devices such as dental amalgam and ensuring that it is deemed reasonably safe and effective. These devices are regulated by the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH).

With the introduction of new filling materials, amalgam is not used as often as it once was. Most dental fillings today are placed in the tooth by the dentist with composite materials.

In light of the recent lawsuit and changes to the FDA's website, the FDA still does not recommend having amalgam fillings removed and The American Dental Association continues to stand their ground that amalgam is a safe and durable filling material.

Sources:

Federal Drug and Food Administration Questions and Answers on Dental Amalgam and The American Dental Association ADA Comments on FDA's Settlement of Dental Amalgam Lawsuit 09 June 2008.

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