Dental Amalgam

What is Amalgam?

In Britain the cheapest and most commonly used substance for dental fillings is dental amalgam, a compound containing between 48 and 55% mercury, 33-35% silver, and various amounts of copper, tin, zinc and other metals.

What is mercury?

Mercury is found in living things - plants, animals and fish - in water and air, and in rocks. It is poisonous and throughout history humans who have been exposed to large amounts of mercury have exhibited a number of symptoms, including mental and physical fatigue, loosening of teeth, irritability, anxiety, depression and eventually death.

The use of mercury in fillings

Amalgam fillings have been in use since the beginning of the 19th century. It used to be thought that mercury was locked into fillings and could not escape, but research1 has shown that mercury vapour is continuously released from amalgam fillings in the mouth. The act of chewing, especially hot or acidic foods, increases the amount of vapour released and absorbed into the body. Mercury accumulates in the jaw area, the gastro-intestinal tract, the kidney, the liver and other organs and tissue.

Having a number of different metals in the same tooth makes the filling act as a battery, producing an electrical current generated when the metals react with saliva. The current, with its attendant electromagnetic field, is situated close to the brain and cranial nerves. This proximity is thought to produce a variety of disorders including lack of concentration and memory, psychological problems, tinnitus, intractable pain syndromes, migraine and epilepsy.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning

Negative reactions to mercury will vary from individual to individual. Many symptoms of mercury poisoning could equally be attributed to other causes. This is believed to be one of the reasons why mercury is still used in dental amalgam. Reactions to mercury in fillings may appear up to five years later making, it difficult to diagnose their cause. Common symptoms are chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, irritability, a metallic taste in the mouth, tremor in the hands, depression, headaches, early vision deterioration and increased salivation. There has also been preliminary research2 showing that mercury affects the immune system by changing the balance of T-cells, impairing their performance.

Amalgam and Pregnancy

Research carried out in 1994 by Gustav Drasch, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Munich, has shown a direct correlation between the number of amalgam fillings in the mother and the levels of mercury found in the brain, liver and kidneys of stillborn children and dead foetuses. Such concentrations are possible because mercury, like other toxic substances and drugs, can cross the placental barrier to the unborn foetus.

In April 1998 the Department of Health issued advice to health professionals following a statement from the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) on the toxicity of dental amalgam. COT's main conclusion was that there was no evidence of risk of systemic toxicity from dental amalgam, but that replacement or removal of amalgam fillings during pregnancy should be avoided as exposure to mercury vapour from dental amalgam is greatest at this time. COT gave this advice based on the possibility that mercury vapour emitted during the removal or insertion of amalgam during dental treatment could cross the placenta.

Following from the COT advice most dentists agree that pregnant women should avoid 
all dental treatment, including cleaning and polishing, to safeguard the foetus from all possible risks. Of those dentists who are concerned with amalgam, opinion is divided about amalgam fillings already in the mouth. One view is that removing them can cause more problems, as the process of extraction significantly increases the release of mercury vapours. This view advises the mother to protect her foetus by eating a diet rich in sulphur-containing foods, limiting the amount of fish and seafood in the diet and, in conjunction with a knowledgeable professional, deciding on a protective vitamin and mineral supplement program. Another view is that the danger of continual exposure of the foetus and the newborn child through the placenta and through the mother's milk outweighs the risk of extraction.

Testing for mercury toxicity

Those who are concerned about mercury toxicity can have their levels tested. A mercury-free dentist practice will give information about which tests they recommend and where they can be done. The British Society for Mercury Free Dentistry offers information about screening procedures for mercury toxicity and Patients Against Mercury Amalgams have a fact sheet on the same subject (see addresses at the end of this factsheet). A referral from your GP can ensure a test by Biolab, a nutritional biochemistry laboratory, which has a range of tests for metal sensitivities. Samples, usually of hair, nails and sweat, are taken by nurses at the laboratory, but if necessary postal samples can be analysed.

Mercury Chelation

Chelation is the process whereby, through the use of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, heavy metals are excreted from body cells, tissue and organs by way of sweat, urine and faeces. It is strongly advised that chelation is done under supervision to ensure that no further harm is caused. A mercury-free dentist practice will be able to supervise the process. Patients Against Mercury Amalgams have a fact sheet about mercury chelation.


An increasing number of European countries including Sweden, Germany and Austria, are banning or restricting the use of dental amalgam. There will be a European Union directive in about two years, which is expected to give the right for countries to forbid the use of amalgam.

If you are concerned about your current or proposed amalgam fillings

The British Dental Association now accepts that an estimated 3% of the population may be hypersensitive to mercury amalgam and have a reaction4. If you believe you may be one of these, or would like to ensure that any future fillings are mercury-free, you should visit your dentist. Most dentists will fill teeth with mercury-free fillings, although these tend to be more expensive and you will be asked to pay for them. If you think your dentist is unsympathetic, you can find a mercury-free dental practice that will take your concerns seriously and advise you on the best course of action. You can get a list of mercury-free dentists from Patients Against Mercury Amalgams. If you decide you would like your amalgam fillings removed and replaced by mercury-free fillings, it is advised5 that precautionary measures are taken. These include using a special drill tip which breaks up the amalgam without turning it into powder and having an extractor fan in front of the face.

1 - Vimy and Lorscheider FL. Intra-oral air mercury released from dental amalgam. J Dent Res 1985; 64(B): 1069-1071.

2 - Eggleston DW. Effect of dental amalgam and nickel alloys on T lymphocytes: preliminary report. J Pros Dent 1984; 51(5): 617-623.

3 - G. Drasch et al., "Mercury Burden on Human Foetal and Infant Tissues," European Journal of Paediatrics 153 (1994): 607-610.

4 - It could be your mercury fillings -article by Susan Clark in the Times 10 August 1999.

5 - Dr. Anthony Newbury, Harley Street dentist and president of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. Reported in the Daily Mail Good Health Debate, Tuesday 12 May, 1998.


The British Society for Mercury Free Dentistry

The Weathervane
22A Moorend Park Road
GL53 0J 
Tel: 01242 226 918


Jack Levenson L.D.S.R.C.S (Edin) 
Offers information about screening procedures for mercury toxicity and a booklist for further reading.

British Dental Society for Clinical Nutrition
Welbeck House
62 Welbeck Street
Send an SAE for more information on mercury-free dentistry.

Pam Clayton's Helpline

Tel: 01933 653339

Pam Clayton has an information pack on the effects of mercury poisoning and a list of mercury-free dentists.

Lyn Rennicks AMPS Society
This free website is for sufferers of amalgam mercury poisoning based on Lyn's personal experience. Information and listing of mercury-free dentists in the UK.

You can also visit Diane Rhodes's message board at http://www.biteback2000.com "Set up in conjunction with Pam's Mercury Helpline, we have set up this site to provide an interactive discussion board with a view to sharing and distributing information"

Patients Against Mercury Amalgams

Flat 9
6 Bridgewater Square
Tel: 020 7256 2994

Contact: Mrs Angela Kilmartin

Publishes a quarterly newsletter incorporating readers' experiences and letters. Also distributes factsheets about chelation, testing for toxicity and lists of dentists practising mercury-free dentistry. List of mercury-free dental practices throughout the country.

British Dental Association (BDA)
64 Wimpole Street
Tel: 020-7935 0875

On the safety of amalgams the BDA states that: "The Department of Health has advised dentists that amalgam fillings are free from risk of systemic toxicity - that they are not a threat to general health. Very occasionally, they can cause a local sensitivity reaction, which removal of the filling will end. Apart from hypersensitivity, no health problems are thought to be caused by amalgam use.

The Department of Health has suggested that, where clinically reasonable, the placement or removal of amalgam fillings is avoided during pregnancy. But this advice was given as a precaution and not because of any evidence of harm to the baby's development or health."

Foundation for Toxic-Free Dentistry
P.O box 608010
Orlando FL,

A foundation formed to support the investigation of, and the dissemination of information on, the biocompatability of materials used in dentistry. Initial efforts have focused on the health effects of mercury amalgam fillings. It provides scientific information and publishes a newsletter, "Dental and Health Facts".

Defence Against Mystery Syndromes (DAMS)
PO Box 7249
Tel: 01-505 888 0111

A support group. Has published a book called Defence Against Mystery Syndromes, containing 36 case histories, written by people whose quality of life improved after amalgam removal and replacement with non-mercury material.

Biolab Medical Unit
The Stonehouse
9 Weymouth Street
Tel: 020 7636 5959
Heavy metals test available.


These are some of the references that have been passed to us; the list is not exhaustive. We have not necessarily read the books and cannot say how easy it will be to get them.

- Varley P. Complementary Therapies in Dental Practice. ISBN: 0723602484 Contains the chapter Mercury Toxicity, by Jack Levenson.
- Statement on the Toxicity of Dental Amalgam, Committee on Toxicity of Chemical in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment. Department of Health.
- Clarke H. The Cure for all Cancers. ISBN: 1890035009. Contains a chapter on the dangers of metal dentistry with the non-toxic alternatives.
- Casdorph R., Walker M. Toxic Metal Syndrome: How Metal Poisoning Can Affect Your Brain. ISBN: 0895296497 Sections on dental amalgam and Alzheimer's disease, dental amalgam and dementia, pathology connected to mercury amalgam toxicity, patient information research, and the path of dental mercury vapour.
- The WDDTY Dental Handbook. What Doctor's Don't Tell You . Tel: 0870 444 9886

The Dental Handbook presents new evidence about the dangers of amalgam fillings and other dental practices, such as root canals and fluoride. It is now an 80-page booklet which includes expert suggestions about how to get fillings removed safely. It also provides a comprehensive list of UK and American dentists experienced in replacing amalgam fillings
- Levenson J. Menace in the Mouth. The British Society for Mercury Free Dentistry


- Amalgam Related Illness FAQ- http://dyserth0.tripod.com/pdf/amagam.pdf There will be many other web-sites - this is a good starting point.

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