Mercury toxicity and dental amalgam

 There is adequate evidence that dental amalgam restorations, during and after placement, results in the release of Hg into the patient's body. Whether the Hg released from amalgam is due to placement procedures, surface abrasion, or later corrosion breakdown, there is evidence that a low level Hg release continues for years. It is generally agreed that if amalgam was introduced today as a restorative material, they would never pass F.D.A. approval. With new and more accurate techniques of measuring Hg levels, especially in tissue and blood, additional studies are necessary to relate blood-Hg levels with dental amalgam restorations. Studies must relate existing restorations as well as the placement of new restorations to body-Hg levels. It is possible that we have accepted a potentially dangerous material as being safe. 

Mercury toxicity in the dental office: a neglected problem

 Symptoms of mercury poisoning and safeguards against contamination of dental offices are given. Office conditions that led to mercury toxication in two Utah dentists are described.Safe mercury vapor levels can be maintained if good mercury hygiene is practiced in the dental office. Symptoms of mercury toxication and safeguards against contamination are listed. Although the office practices that led to mercury toxication in two Utah dentists were corrected, nearly 20 months passed before their symptoms subsided. 

Your dental amalgams and mercury toxycity symptoms

 Dental amalgams are 50% mercury. The mercury contained in the amalgam leaches out as a vapour into your body for the lifetime of the filling. Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal and the mental, physical and emotional effects of mercury on the body have been well documented and known for centuries.Although you are exposed to mercury through many sources including environmental exposure, eating fish etc, the majority of mercury exposure comes from dental amalgam, the silver fillings in your teeth.Amalgam was developed over 180 years ago and has never been exposed to any meaningful safety testing. It is a mixture of 50% liquid mercury and 50% powdered metals and it never truly sets, it is in fact a stiff paste of alloys in a liquid mercury base.Mercury disrupts the biological functions of the body on a number of different levels, which means it can cause a myriad of disturbances, imbalances, illnesses and symptoms in your body.The following list provides the most recognised symptoms of mercury toxicity. For ease I have broken them down into regions of the body. This list is extensive but not exhaustive and just because you have or may have some of these symptoms it is not a diagnosis for mercury toxicity. 

The respiratory system

 Up to 80% of inhaled mercury vapour is absorbed through the lungs. From here it travels to all the other tissues and organs of the body in the circulation, but particularly concentrates within the kidney, liver and brain.The presence of mercury in the lungs causes chronic breathing disorders including:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Breathlessness
  • Persistent cough and
  • Bad breath

Brain function

 Mercury binds tightly to nerves and fats, so it is readily absorbed into the brain and nerve endings that regulate all the functions of the body. It prevents nerves regenerating and disrupts nerve function.Mercury from amalgam crosses the blood-brain barrier and can damage any part of the central nervous system including the master endocrine glands at the base of the brain which control both the nervous and hormone systems.Mercury can produce a host of mental, emotional, and behavioural changes and what are considered 'psychiatric' disorders by disrupting neurotransmitters, interfering with endocrine gland function and hormones and causing destruction of nervous pathways.The effects of mercury on brain function include:

  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Difficulty finding words
  • A lack of initiative
  • An inability to concentrate
  • Brain fog
  • An inability to make decisions and
  • Lack of motivation
  • Changes in mood

Mercury is also known to have profound effects upon mood including:

  • Fears
  • Anxieties
  • Irritability
  • Fits of anger
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Withdrawal
  • Being easily embarrassed
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling easily discouraged
  • A loss of sense of humour
  • Life seems an endless, joyless struggle
  • 'Psychiatric' symptoms

 The ability of mercury to induce 'mercury madness' is well recognised and symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • A persistent death wish
  • Suicide attempts
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
  • Manic-Depressive Disorder
  • Panic disorders an
  • Schizophrenia spectrum disorders
  • Peripheral nervous system symptoms
  • The profound disruption of nerve structure and function leads to difficulty with motor nerve function including:
  • Difficulty articulating words
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Clumsiness
  • Difficulty doing fine tasks such as typing or adding numbers on a calculator
  • Tremors
  • Ticks and twitches (especially of the face and eyes)
  • A loss of coordination and
  • Restless legs

Reproductive and sexual function

 Mercury collects in the reproductive organs where it can cause a variety of disorders including infertility.It is known to directly cross the placental barrier in pregnant women and also to concentrate in breast milk and mercury levels in newborn babies have been shown to be directly related to the number of amalgam fillings in the mother’s mouth.The symptoms of mercury toxicity in both sexes include:

  • A low or non-existent libido
  • Precocious or late puberty
  • Infertility
  • In women
  • Heavy, missed or irregular periods
  • Severe period pains
  • Pre-menstrual tension (PMT)
  • Miscarriages
  • Still births
  • In men
  • Impotence
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Low sperm count, defective sperm and sperm with poor motility

The urinary system

 Mercury from dental amalgam fillings is also recognised to severely impact kidney function such that animal studies have shown a 50% reduction within a month of placement of the first amalgam filling. Effects of mercury on the urinary system include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent nocturnal urination (2-3 times a night or more)
  • Incontinence (especially in women)
  • Difficulty urinating (especially in men)
  • An urgent need to urinate
  • A variety of kidney and bladder diseases.

The musculoskeletal system

 Mercury accumulates in muscles and joints causing muscle tenderness and joint pain.

  • Tender, sore muscles
  • Rapid muscle fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Low-back pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Jaw joint dysfunction (TMJD)

The cardiovascular system and heart

 Mercury collects in the heart muscle and valves and has been found at 22,000 times the levels found in the blood. Mercury is strongly associated with elevated levels of homocysteine and cholesterol and heart attacks.It also causes red blood cells to rupture and replaces the iron in haemoglobin so that the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood can be reduced by half. Mercury also causes a weakening in the walls of the small blood vessels leading to a reduced blood supply to the organs and tissues.The cardiovascular symptoms of mercury poisoning include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • An irregular heart beat
  • Angina or chest pain
  • A racing heart beat
  • Either an abnormally slow or rapid heart rate
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Frequently feeling faint
  • Elevated blood cholesterol and homocysteine levels and
  • Easy bleeding and bruising. 

The endocine hormone system

 Mercury disrupts hormone production and release from the endocrine glands, and also blocks the receptors which allow the hormones to send messages to cells and organs.The endocrine system has a high requirement for specific trace minerals and accumulation of mercury within the glands may occur because of the chemical similarity to the essential mineral, zinc.Symptoms of mercury poisoning in the endocrine system include:

  • Low and poorly controlled blood sugar respectively
  • Hypothyroidism - under-active thyroid gland
  • Hypoadrenalism - under-functioning adrenal glands
  • Constant fatigue -adrenal and thyroid gland exhaustion
  • A poor physiological response to stress. 

The oral cavity / Mouth

 Mercury also collects in very high concentrations in the jaw bones and the soft tissues of the mouth.Mixing gold and amalgam restorations in the mouth increases the amount of mercury vapour given off several fold and placing gold crowns over amalgam cores particularly drives mercury into the surrounding bone.Symptoms of mercury toxicity in the mouth include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Mouth ulcers
  • A metallic taste
  • Excessive salivation
  • A loss of the sense of taste
  • A burning, red, inflamed mouth
  • ‘Bald’ patches on the tongue or cheeks (includes geographical tongue)
  • Dark spots on gums ('amalgam tattoos')

The ears: hearing and balance

 Mercury accumulates in the many sensory nerves of the ear that serve hearing and balance.Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Poor balance
  • Tinnitus (ringing or whining noises in the ears)
  • Pain in the ear canals
  • Poor hearing and deafness
  • Difficulty interpreting what you hear.

Skin, Hair and Nails


  • For the body, the skin is a major route of excretion and so it will try to expel mercury via the skin.
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Dry skin
  • Peeling or flaking skin on the hands, feet and face
  • A puffy face
  • Red, flaky skin around the eyes
  • Thick, red skin on hands & feet
  • Pricking, stabbing, fizzing or crawling sensations in the skin
  • Very itchy rashes
  • Eczema and psoriasis.
  • Excessive perspiration
  • An inability to sweat
  • Night sweats.


The quality of the hair and nails is also adversely affected causing:

  • Loss of underarm, pubic, body or head hair
  • Greying of hair
  • Dry, thin, wiry, dull hair
  • Weak, flaky nails that split and tear easily.

The Nose and Sinuses

 Some of the mercury vapour from amalgam fillings adheres to the lining of the nose and sinuses from where it can be transported directly into the brain and cause the following symptoms:

  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Poor sense of smell
  • Chronic or recurrent rhinitis
  • Nasal congestion
  • A persistently sore throat
  • Chronic tonsillitis.


 Mercury collects within the eye balls themselves leading to the appearance of 'floaters' (dark cloudy areas), but also adversely affects the muscles controlling focussing of the eyes and lens and the sensory nerves of the retina itself leading to:

  • Intermittent visual blurring
  • Deteriorating peripheral vision or 'tunnel' vision
  • Bulging eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty focussing
  • Poor colour vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Difficulty moving the eyes.

The Digestive System

 Much of the mercury from dental amalgams is swallowed along with foods or in the saliva and the digestive system is usually one of the first areas of the body to be affected. Mercury binds with and blocks the actions of digestive enzymes leading to poor digestion and the development of food intolerances.It also alters the normal gut bacteria, favouring the overgrowth of yeasts (most commonly Candida albicans) and suppressing the growth of 'friendly' bacteria which can lead to the development of intestinal permeability or a so called 'leaky gut'.Digestive symptoms of mercury poisoning include:

  • The development of food sensitivities and intolerances
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Malabsorption
  • Leaky gut
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn.

The Immune System

 The immune system is one of the first casualties of mercury toxicity. It causes a reduction in the number of natural killer (NK) cells which are responsible for policing tumours and viruses leading to the development of chronic viral infections and cancer.The effects of mercury toxicity upon the immune system include:

  • Chronic, recurrent or frequent infections.
  • Chronic or recurrent yeast infections. Mercury actively promotes the overgrowth of yeasts such as Candida albicans causing thrush, 'jock' itch and athlete’s foot.
  • The development of allergies and sensitivities. Mercury alters the ratios of T-helper cells to T-suppressor cells so that the immune response is turned on more readily but not terminated, leading the immune system to over-react to a wide variety of foods and chemicals.
  • Autoimmune diseases. Mercury binds to proteins on the surface of the cells of the body leading the immune system to identify them as being foreign and initiating one of the 100 or more autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, scleroderma or Hashimoto thyroiditis.
  • Various cancers. The undermining of the immune response and in particular the disabling of the natural killer cells leads to the development of one of the most prevalent immune deficiency disease of all: cancer.
  • The lymphatic system works to drain and filter excess fluid from the tissues and to initiate an immune response if required. The effects of mercury toxicity on the lymphatic system include:
  • Water retention (especially of the legs)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (especially in the neck).

General Symptoms of Mercury Toxicity

 Last, but not least, mercury particularly accumulates in the mitochondria ('powerhouses') of the cells where it poisons energy production. The presence of mercury in the circulation and the effects on energy production lead to:

  • A profound exhaustion and fatigue (chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia)
  • Low body temperature
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Unexplained changes in weight
  • Changes in appetite
  • Excessive thirst
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Anaemia
  • Difficulty getting to sleep
  • Early waking

Illnesses Linked With Mercury Toxicity


  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Cancer

If you have concerns about your dental amalgams seek out a qualified and well trained holistic dentist who understands about the impact of mercury on your health. 

What is amalgam?

  Amalgam is a combination of metals that has been the most popular and effective filling material used in dentistry for the last 150 years. Although it sometimes is called "silver amalgam," amalgam actually consists of a combination of metals. These include silver, mercury, tin and copper. Small amounts of zinc, indium or palladium also may be used.Tooth-colored materials now can be used to restore teeth. Therefore, amalgam is used less often than in the past. However, the newer materials can't be used for all situations. Amalgam is less costly than other materials. It also holds up better over time, especially in teeth that undergo a lot of pressure and wear from chewing. 

Why the concern about mercury in amalgam?

 Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in the environment. Mercury can exist as a liquid, as in many thermometers. When heated, it becomes a gas. It also can be combined with many other materials.Everyone is exposed to mercury through air, drinking water, soil and food. Concerns have been raised, for instance, about the amount of mercury building up in fish as a result of pollution. Mercury enters the air from industries that burn mercury-containing fuels. Mercury from all sources can build up in body organs.As with most substances, the degree of harm caused by mercury in the body is related to the amount. Very low levels don't cause any ill effects. At higher levels — for instance, when workers are exposed to mercury through their jobs — mercury can cause several symptoms. These include anxiety, irritability, memory loss, headaches and fatigue.The controversy over amalgam centers on how much mercury fillings released and how much the body absorbs. In the past, amalgam fillings were thought to be inert. This would mean that no mercury was released once the filling was placed in the tooth. In recent years, sophisticated tests have changed this view. Very small amounts of mercury in the form of vapor can be released as the amalgam filling wears.Research on this issue is complex and has arrived at various estimates of the actual amount of mercury released. However, several reviews of the research have concluded that any amount released from amalgam in the mouth is very low.Studies have shown that the amount of mercury you are exposed to from your fillings is less than the amount that most people are exposed to in their daily environment or in the food they eat. 

Should pregnant women be concerned about amalgam fillings?

 Research has not shown any health effects from amalgam fillings in pregnant women. However, mercury can cross the placenta. In general, dentists advise pregnant women to avoid unnecessary dental care. Women should not get amalgam fillings during pregnancy. Dentists can suggest other materials for any pregnant woman who needs a cavity filled. 

How safe is amalgam?

 Millions of people have amalgam fillings. Concern has been raised over the mercury in amalgam.Many studies on the safety of amalgam fillings have been done. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated this research. It found no reason to limit the use of amalgam. The FDA concluded that amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children ages 6 and above.However, some groups asked the FDA to reconsider. That review is under way. 

If amalgam is safe, why does my dentist take precautions when handling it?

 Because dentists work with mercury almost every day, they must take safety precautions. Without protection, dentists can inhale mercury vapors. Over time, this exposure can produce symptoms of mercury toxicity.To make dental amalgam, dentists mix liquid mercury with a powder containing silver, tin and other metals. Dentists buy special capsules that contain the powder and the liquid mercury, separated by a membrane. They use special machinery to puncture the membrane and mix the amalgam while it is still in the capsule. Once mixing is complete, the capsule is opened. By the time the amalgam is placed in your tooth, the mercury has formed a compound with the other metals. It is no longer toxic.If you are getting an amalgam filling or having one removed, your dentist will use high-powered suction to remove any excess amalgam from your mouth. Dentists' offices have special disposal systems for any extra amalgam. Special traps in the sink drains and in the suction tubes prevent amalgam from entering the plumbing system. 

Are there alternatives to amalgam?

 There is now a dental amalgam that contains indium as well as mercury. The indium helps retain the mercury so that less is released into the environment. There are also high-copper amalgams. They contain less mercury and more copper.Dentists use other materials to restore teeth. These include composite resin, porcelain and gold. Amalgam is stronger than composite resin and requires less time in the dentist's chair. Composite resin is a tooth-colored material. Because it wears faster than amalgam, composite resin can't be used in every situation.