Dentist explaining what's on the screen to patient

Mercury in Dental Fillings: What Patients Want to Know

Mar 21, 2017 

Author: Jen Collins,RDH


  • The American Dental Association (ADA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and The Cochrane Collaboration have conducted reviews on the safety of amalgam fillings.
  • Amalgam fillings are being placed less frequently than before, even though they are cost-effective and durable.
  • Read on to learn more about this research and how to ease any concerns your patients may have.

Patients often ask questions regarding their dental and overall health, and it is our job as dental hygienists to answer them accurately and in easy-to-understand terms. Sometimes patients see controversial stories on TV or the internet regarding mercury contained in amalgam fillings. Restorations have been placed using materials similar to modern amalgam since the early 1800s. According to the FDA, modern amalgam fillings are strong and long-lasting.

If your patients are apprehensive about amalgam fillings they have, here is how you can help put their minds at ease.

New Research

Amalgam fillings have been used for over 150 years and amalgam is more cost-effective than any other filling material, states the FDA. Also, the level of mercury in today's dental amalgam fillings is low. And according to The Cochrane Collaboration, amalgam fillings have a lower failure rate compared to composite fillings when used posteriorly in the permanent dentition. Even so, more clinicians and patients are choosing composite fillings due to their aesthetic properties and the perception of risk of mercury in amalgam fillings.

Patient Education

Many times patients read information on the internet and look to dental hygienists to address their concerns. Be prepared to share accurate information to ease patients' minds.

In a recently published press release, the ADA states that amalgam 'has a long-established record of safety and effectiveness.' The ADA has also published patient information on its website about amalgam and other types of fillings, stating that amalgam is safe and effective. Make copies of this literature and hand paper versions to patients that they can read at home if they have questions, or send them an electronic copy with links by email. Assure your patients that the ADA is an authority in the dental field.

It is also helpful if you explain the information in terms that patients will understand while they are still in your chair. For instance, some patients may not understand the differences between amalgam and composite fillings. Those are two terms that often appear in studies. Explain that amalgam is the type of filling that includes mercury along with a few other metals and that composite fillings are made of resin and gaining popularity because they are tooth-colored.

Your Preparation

Patients often voice concerns about their oral health, so it's important to stay up to date on dental materials and trends in dentistry. Attending national conferences and/or local courses on best practices helps ensure you can give your patients the best advice based on current standards.


  • Be prepared to ease patients' concerns about amalgam fillings.
  • Send patients home with literature about the safety of amalgam fillings.
  • Stay educated on current dental procedures to be able to give the best advice to your patients.

Why It's Important

Patients rely on dental hygienists to answer any questions they may have about their teeth and about their oral health's impact on the rest of their body. The ADA supports amalgam fillings, and the research backs their safety and efficacy.

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