The risks of mercury on dental practice
Mercury is one the ten groups of chemical products that hold major implications on public health, according to the WHO. This element (Hg) is naturally present on air, water, soil, and it is a toxic substance with devastating effects on human beings, especially on pregnant women, infants, and kids. Various products contain different amounts of mercury, like batteries, thermometers, barometers, switches, lightbulbs, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, and dental amalgam.
Dental amalgam is used to restore teeth, like dental fillings. It is used in the whole world and it is more convenient and accessible than other materials. The WHO recommends to stop using dental amalgam and change to alternative materials, though this means a raise on costs in countries of medium or low income.
Studies performed since 1982 have shown that people working this kind of material has been exposed to this element (Hg). Scottish dentist found higher concentrations of mercury than the normal populations. This has brought consequences like allergies, reproductive problems (1991); neurological and/or cognitive problems (1982); fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (1999, 2013, 2014, and 2018). Two Norwegian surveys of dental assistants reported memory loss, problems to focus, psychosomatic symptoms, sleep disorders, fatigue, and other signs of cognitive dysfunction. (Moen et al., 2008, Hilt et al., 2009).
Various countries have opted to ban the use of this material, like Norway, and Sweden; in other countries its use has decrease at least a 5% like Denmark, Finland, Estonia, and Italy; Switzerland and Japan are close to ban dental filling material; France opted to consider mercury free alternatives; in Finland, Austria, Germany, and Canada the use of dental amalgam on kids, pregnant women, and people with kidney problems has decreased.
This element (Hg) also has domestic and industrial uses. Liquid mercury at room temperature does not absorb in the intestinal tract but it evaporates, being easy to inhale. Once absorbed it can go through the placenta, brain barriers, and blood, with the capacity of staying there for years. Dental amalgam emits Hg vapor and, when inhaled, it is absorbed and it enters the bloodstream. The first symptoms of chronic intoxication by Hg vapor are weakness, fatigue, anorexia, and weight loss.
Personnel that works on dental places and works with amalgams is exposed to higher levels of mercury concentration than the average people. Among the problems aforementioned, central nervous system problems are also considered. Though hygienic practices have improved throughout the years, it is necessary to take measures, especially for people that can be significantly sensible to Hg toxicity. The most important thing is to keep human health and save the environment.
- Article: “Mercury exposure and health impacts in dental personnel”. Environmental Research. Volume 164, July 2018, Pages 65-69.
- Article: “Elemental mercury neurotoxicity and clinical recovery of function: A review of findings, and implications for occupational health”. Environmental Research. Volume 163, May 2018, Pages 134-148
- American Dental Association