Do all silver fillings contain mercury?


I am fortunate that all of my fillings are bonded white resin. However, my girlfriend still has some of the traditional silver fillings in her teeth. I have been reading about the risks of mercury exposure and am wondering if there is a way to tell for sure whether there is mercury in a filling without having them removed.


Xavier in Oak Park

Dear Xavier,

The short answer is yes. If you have amalgam fillings (usually known as “silver” fillings) then they do contain mercury. The only way to get silver soft enough to form a paste that can be molded to fill a cavity is to mix it with mercury. That is why silver fillings should properly be called amalgam fillings, since they are made from a combination of silver and mercury, and frequently other metals as well. Most amalgam fillings are about 50 percent mercury.

So, you don’t need to go to the trouble of having the fillings removed. If they are silver-colored, they have mercury in them. It may help you to know that there is no documented evidence that mercury in dental fillings has any harmful effects at all. If ingested, mercury has damaging effects on the body, but there is no evidence that mercury fillings leak into the body and no reports of patients with mercury fillings suffering from increased exposure.

Learn more about composite white fillings versus amalgam fillings.

This blog is sponsored by the offices of Lake Forest cosmetic dentist James Fondriest.

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