Despite mercury being one of the most toxic materials around, most dentists continue to use it for filling teeth. After all, it’s cheap, and can be placed much more quickly and easily than newer, higher quality materials. (Curious as to how it’s done? Here’s a basic demo.)

But because of that toxicity, we not only avoid using mercury amalgam to restore teeth; we take extra safety precautions whenever a patient chooses to have their old “silver” fillings replaced with biocompatible materials. Their health, as well as our own and that of our environment depend on it.

safe amalgam removalThe importance of this was recently highlighted by new research on the potential for mercury exposure during amalgam removal.

For the study, published in last month’s Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, dentists measured mercury particulate from 21 patients who had elected to have their amalgam fillings safely removed. They then took swabs of the head of their dental drills and tested levels of mercury vapor.

“The head of the drill,” they wrote, “is a predictable area where particulate accumulates which makes it a convenient place to collect from.”

And what did they find?

We showed that drilling dental amalgam generates particulate that volatilizes significant amounts of mercury vapor generally for more than an hour after removal. The levels of mercury vapor created by this procedure frequently exceed the safety thresholds of several jurisdictions and agencies.

“Frequently” here means in nearly half of all cases. Some samples continued to emit unsafe levels of mercury vapor for as long as four hours after the procedure. Earlier research has likewise found dramatically high levels of mercury exposure in dental offices.

Need a visual of how just how significant vapor exposure can be? Check out this demo from the excellent documentary Evidence of Harm:

This exposure may explain why dental workers incur health effects when safety thresholds are not breached. The dispersion patterns for the particulate are not known, so the use of effective skin barriers and inhalation protection are required during amalgam removal to protect the dental worker from this form of occupational mercury exposure.

Here are some of the specific measures we take here at Green City Dental when removing dental amalgam:

  • Patient counseling on prep protocol to open up detox pathways prior to removal.
  • Mouth rinse that binds mercury for the patient before and after removal.
  • An alternative air supply for the patient.
  • Mercury-rated breathing protection for the dentist and assistant.
  • Full facial and body barriers for all in the room.
  • Isolite to provide retraction, reduce the risk of particulate going down the patient’s throat, isolate the working field, and remove fluid from the oral cavity.
  • High volume suction and a secondary air vacuum placed near the head to trap particulate and vapors.
  • Removing the amalgam in large chunks with a low-speed drill.
  • Copious amounts of water to keep the filling cool and reduce airborne particulate.
  • Amalgam separators in every room to keep mercury from entering the waste water lines.

Mercury-safe dentist Dr. Nick Yiannios has put together an excellent video showing just how much of a difference such protections can make:

Ready to learn more? Check out our archive for more on the dangers of mercury exposure and the importance of following thorough safety protocols for removal and detoxification Or drop us a line here or via Facebook or Twitter.

We’re always happy to speak with you about our mercury-free, mercury-safe practices and how we can help you achieve your desired level of health!


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