Silver amalgam fillings, made up of 50% mercury, were brought over from France in the 1800s by the Crawcour brothers, but there is evidence that they had been used in China around the turn of the 16th century, during the Ming Dynasty. By the middle of the century they were being used by dentists across the country. Even then, mercury was recognized to be a toxic substance and the fillings were the subject of controversy in the dental community. Shortly after the introduction of amalgam fillings, the Dental Society of American Surgeons was founded. The Society banned the use of amalgam fillings by its members and declared their use to be malpractice until it was dissolved in 1859 and replaced by the American Dental Association.
The controversy over mercury fillings didn’t really go away, but mercury became so commonplace that most people didn’t really give it much thought. Even after 2007 when the US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry declared mercury to be the third most hazardous substance known. Makers of these products are aware of their toxicity and include disclaimers on the packaging warning that the product is neurotoxic and nephrotoxic.
One would wonder, then, why these fillings are so popular. In short, they work. Amalgam fillings are strong, are easy to work with, last for years and work well for most patients, physically speaking, anyway. Just because they work well from a physical standpoint, however, doesn’t mean they work well from a biological standpoint. They can also expand over time, causing the tooth to crack. Many holistic dentists spend a considerable amount of time in their practices placing crowns on teeth that have been significantly cracked by mercury fillings.
Nearly unanimously, Biological Dentists are opposed to mercury fillings and have been for many years. Holistic dentists have been using tooth colored alternatives that work as well as or better than mercury.
Some people believe that mercury fillings are safe, others say they aren’t. It may have made sense at one time to use them when they were one of the strongest, most durable materials available to fill cavities. The question of the safety of mercury fillings still has not been definitively settled, so it may well prove to be safe. But when the US government declares mercury to be among the most toxic materials known and when there are alternatives that are just as effective and without the controversy, there really is no reason to keep using them.