Dental Debate: How safe is mercury in your mouth?


by Mia Gradney / KHOU 11 News

Posted on August 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM

HOUSTON—It’s a long-standing dental debate: is the metal in your mouth making you sick?

More than 100 million Americans have silver-colored mercury fillings in their mouths. They’ve been used since the civil war but many wonder just how safe they are.
As a child, Sharon Cloer had close to 10 fillings. As an adult, she believes they made her sick and even changed the taste of food. 
“Every now and then, I would get a metal taste,” Cloer said.
 She has since had the fillings removed. As a result, she says she’s been able to enjoy more food, has more energy and is convinced her respiratory health has improved having gone off her asthma medication.
Dr. James Hardy, a dentist, believes mercury that leaks out of traditional silver fillings may cause serious illness. 
“It affects your brain. It affects your kidneys.” Dr. Hardy said. “It affects over 200 different systems in your body.”
Mercury exposure can cause memory loss, tremors, mood swings, anxiety and arthritis. Dr. Hardy says the symptoms can often be reversed once the fillings are removed.
“I had them removed, and my eyesight and memory actually improved,” he shared.
Mercury fillings are banned in several European countries, but in the U.S., the FDA maintains they are safe for adults and children ages six and above. The American Dental Association agrees. 
Sandburg Englund, a professor of dental biomaterials in Sweden where the fillings are banned, says studies on mercury fillings are inconclusive.
 “Should patients be concerned if they have mercury fillings?” Englund asked. “No, I don’t think so.”
Dr. Hardy believes the FDA needs to classify mercury fillings as dangerous. 
“If it’s dangerous outside the mouth, it’s dangerous inside the mouth,” Hardy said.
Doctor Hardy offers patients composite fillings instead of mercury fillings. They match tooth color, but are more expensive.