Mercury Free and Mercury Safe Dentistry
Dr. Braga, Dr. Peroutka, Dr. Malek, Dr. Swingdorf, Dr. Gerber, and the team members at Cahill Dental Care practice dentistry in a Mercury Free and Safe environment in Minneapolis, MN since 1983. The controversy over the safety of mercury and mercury fillings in the dental office continues but Dr. Braga takes the position that minimizing exposure to mercury is prudent. At Cahill exposure to mercury and mercury vapors is minimized by the use of an independent oxygen source, chair-side scavengers with HEPA and charcoal filtering and rubber dam oral barriers. As a State-of-Art Dental practice, Cahill Dental Care is committed to providing patients with the safest, most effective and comfortable care available in modern dentistry.
Mercury Free Versus Mercury Safe: What’s in a Name?
As recently as 2008, half of dental offices were still placing dental amalgam mercury fillings. Amalgam (metal colored) fillings contain 50% mercury by weight. This prompted many health conscious patients that were interested in reducing their exposure to dental mercury to seek out offices that promote themselves as “Mercury-Free.”
However, while “Mercury-Free” may assure a patient that they will not be subjected to the placement of new mercury it does not necessarily mean that they can expect to have safe mercury removal. Ironically, mercury removal for many patients is motivated by health concerns yet if traditional filling removal methods are employed, patients are actually further exposed to mercury.
The average amount of mercury vapor released during filling removal far exceeds the maximum safety levels set by government regulatory agencies (including OSHA and the World Health Organization). Once vaporized, 80% of the mercury enters the body by inhalation and absorption through the lungs. It is both odorless and invisible. Unlike organic mercury that is found in fish and absorbed in the intestinal track during digestion, elemental mercury used in dental fillings is not as easily absorbed when swallowed. To minimize the risk to both patient and dental team members, protocols were developed primarily targeting mercury vapor but also controlling small easy-to-swallow pieces.
“Mercury-Safe” is a more accurate description of dentists who not only refuse to place amalgam fillings, but also remove them as safely as possible. While all Mercury-Safe dentists are likely to be Mercury-Free, very few Mercury-Free dentists are Mercury-Safe and this is an important distinction for patients who have concerns about metal fillings. Since the removal process releases vaporized mercury, very careful measures must be taken to prevent inhalation. Particulate matter must be controlled as well.
Strict protocols using intra-oral barriers, an external oxygen source, high speed intra-oral and extra-oral suction plus building air exchangers are all part of the process. This is definitely the case at Cahill Dental Care.