Amalgam (mercury) dental fillings

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Pregnant women, children and people with neurological disorders need access to mercury-free dental fillings.

Like lead, mercury is a neurotoxin that can harm children’s brains. Even a small exposure of a neurotoxin at the wrong time of development can have a lifelong impact, including in the womb and for the breastfeeding baby. There is no known safe level of mercury for children or adults but people are still getting amalgam dental fillings that are 50% mercury.

A year ago, the Food and Drug Administration released recommendations for high-risk populations to avoid amalgam dental fillings including 1) children 2) women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant 3) people with neurological disorders and 4) people with kidney impairments. But federal agencies which provide dental care to millions of Americans have yet to implement these recommendations.

That is why LDA’s Healthy Children Project is helping to lead the effort to ask federal agencies including the Indian Health Service, Department of Defense, Bureau of Prisons and the Medicaid program to provide only mercury-free dental fillings to these vulnerable populations. Learn more about the FDA recommendations below. Read our press release and the letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality here.

LDA worked with partners, meeting with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testifying on amalgam. The result: FDA released new recommendations on dental amalgam – a filling material that is approximately 50% mercury.

“Even a small exposure of a neurotoxin at the wrong time of development can have a lifelong impact, especially for the fetus and young child”, said Tracy Gregoire with the Learning Disabilities Association of America. “There are proven, safer alternatives to amalgam, so we should avoid preventable exposures to neurotoxins like mercury in amalgam. For these reasons, LDA is happy to see that the FDA lists pregnant and nursing women and children under 6, as well as people with neurological disorders, in the high-risk category and recommends that alternatives to amalgam are used.”

In addition, reducing amalgam use even further reducing the amount of mercury not only in people’s bodies, but the environment as well, since mercury in fillings is a major use of mercury in the US.  Read our full press release with key partners.

The FDA recommends against dental amalgam use in people who are at higher risk from the potential adverse effects of mercury, including:

  • Pregnant women and their developing babies
  • Women who are planning to become pregnant
  • Nursing women and their newborns and infants
  • Children, especially those younger than six years of age
  • People with pre-existing neurological disease
  • People with impaired kidney function
  • People with known heightened sensitivity (allergy) to mercury or other components of dental amalgam.

The FDA “recommends that non-mercury restorations (fillings) such as composite resins and glass ionomer cements be used, when possible and appropriate, in people who may be at higher risk for adverse health effects from mercury exposure.” You can read FDA’s full recommendations here.

FDA based these recommendations on data and new information including:

  • Mercury from dental amalgam does contribute to total mercury in the body and there is a correlation between number of amalgam fillings and the amount of mercury in the body.
  • Scientific evidence shows that metallic mercury converts to organic methyl mercury, which can be absorbed easily, and is in the mouth and in the gut and can cross the blood brain barrier.
  • Amalgam appears to be primarily used in children of color and other more vulnerable populations that are likely to be exposed to more mercury through environmental exposures as well as amalgam fillings.
  • There is a good alternatives to amalgam, at a reasonable price.
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Tracy Gregoire

Tracy Gregoire

Tracy Gregoire is the Healthy Children Project Director for the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and is a long-time advocate for children’s health.

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