FDA: Possible Risk From Dental Fillings
To Settle Lawsuit, FDA Now Says Mercury From Fillings Might Pose Risk to Some
WebMD News Archive
But the FDA never issued a final ruling. It's proposed "white paper"
on the topic was voted down in a 13-7 vote by a 2006
advisory panel made up of experts in dentistry and in neurology.
Neurologist Karl Kieburtz, MD, of the University of Rochester, co-chaired
"The panel's concern was there are populations that are particularly
susceptible to the neurological effects of mercury and might experience these
effects at the very low levels of exposure seen with dental amalgam,"
Kieburtz tells WebMD. "That was the tenor of the committee -- 'Let's
consider vulnerable populations' -- so we said fair enough, these vulnerable
populations should at least get a warning."
Kieburtz notes that panel members also agreed that there was no cause for
alarm and said there was no reason for pregnant women or others to have their
dental fillings removed.
"To the best of my knowledge, there is no clinical evidence in humans
that dental amalgams have led to harm," Kieburtz says. "Is there a
theoretical reason to suspect harm? Yes. There is a rationale for concern, but
no evidence there is harm. So there is a theoretical concern and a lack of
evidence and that has led to a precautionary rule."
Indeed, clinical studies suggest that dental
fillings cause no harm. But because millions and millions of children and
pregnant women receive the fillings, even rare events would affect thousands of
Amalgam fillings are made from liquid mercury mixed with a powder containing
silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals. It was once thought that the
mercury in fillings was permanently trapped in the amalgam. Not any more.
When people chew, the fillings emit mercury vapor that is absorbed by the
body. Even for people with lots of fillings, it's a small amount of
But since mercury is toxic even at very low levels, there's growing concern
that the mercury in fillings could be the straw that breaks the camel's back
for people with other mercury exposures. And dental professionals are routinely
exposed to the vapors.
Even now, the FDA does not recommend that people have their fillings
removed. But the agency does say that people concerned about the possible
health effects of dental fillings should talk with their "qualified health