Are Your Mercury Tooth Fillings Safe?

ByABC News via logo

Sept. 13, 2006 — -- Like millions of Americans, Lauri Grossman has cavities.

"I certainly had my share of silver fillings in my mouth," Grossman said.

"Silver," or amalgam fillings, aren't really silver.

They are made from a mixture of metals, including 50 percent mercury, and some people, including dentists, have reservations about them.

In large doses, mercury has been proven to cause learning disabilities in children and brain damage in adults.

To be safe, Grossman had her fillings removed and replaced.

"If mercury isn't good for kids in vaccinations, then it certainly isn't good just sitting in my mouth," she said.

Perhaps Grossman has good reason to worry.

An FDA panel met last week to review safety concerns of mercury fillings.

While the panel did not say they were unsafe, it recommended further study for the first time, especially in children and pregnant women.

U.S. consumer groups that have been lobbying for a partial ban on mercury fillings feel this is a start.

Tens of millions of Americans still get the fillings every year, though.

Previous research has shown that even among people with multiple fillings, exposure levels are well below those known to be harmful.

"There is a misguided fear out there," said Dr. Ed Hewlett of the American Dental Association. "In order to have even the earliest signs of a problematic effect with mercury fillings, a person would have to have 500 silver fillings in their mouth, all at the same time."

Still, some countries have banned them for use in pregnant women, and many dentists here refuse to use them at all.

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