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Dental fillings: a concern for your health? Safety of dental amalgam and alternative dental restoration materials

4. When is the exposure to mercury from dental amalgam the highest?

    A very small amount of mercury vapor is released from amalgam restorations during chewing, tooth brushing and other activities that put a physical strain on the teeth, such as when someone grinds his or her teeth. How much mercury is released depends on the number of fillings, the filling size and placement, chewing habits, food texture and other factors.

    The highest exposure to mercury from amalgam restorations occurs during the placement or removal of the fillings. That is why unnecessarily removing clinically satisfactory amalgam restorations is not justified, except in those patients who are having an allergic reaction to one of the amalgam components.

    Mercury release during placement and removal also results in exposure of dental personnel. Available studies do not indicate that dental personnel in general, despite somewhat higher exposure, suffer from adverse effects that can be attributed to mercury exposure due to dental amalgam. However, exposure of both patients and dental personnel can be minimised by avoiding unnecessary removals and using appropriate clinical techniques.

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