Dental Insurance Covers Mercury Amalgams

2009-07-29 18:09

Recently the FDA released information about mercury amalgams for tooth fillings. The FDA stated that mercury amalgams were safe for adults and children aged 6 and older. The FDA put the amalgams in a Class II, meaning that they have moderate risk. However, it is important to understand that even though this came up from a Class I, which is low risk, the new classification allows the FDA to have some special controls. Many dentists still use the mercury amalgams and insurance companies love them because they are cheap, especially compared to alternatives.

Mercury amalgams contain a form of mercury called elemental mercury. Elemental mercury can only give off low levels of vapor to be inhaled. This type of mercury is used in dental fillings because it binds the powdered alloy made of silver, tin, and copper. The filling is then very strong and durable. Because the mercury is liquid at room temperature (being the only metal that is) it bonds well with the alloy. This is considered to be a very important part of the amalgam and contributes to the durability. Plus, because of the durability and cost efficiency, dental insurance prefers to cover the mercury amalgams over other methods used.

While many are very concerned about the effects to the brain and neurological system, its helps to clarify that there are different chemical forms of mercury. Elemental mercury is the form used in dental amalgams. It releases a vapor that is absorbed by the lungs. The mercury in fish is called methylmercury and it is absorbed through the digestive tract. The body handles these types of mercury in different manners. Methylmercury is the toxic form of mercury affecting the brain and neurological systems. Elemental mercury levels in the body from dental amalgams are well below the levels that the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe.

In order to evaluate the safety of dental amalgams, the FDA did a deep intense review of over 200 peer-reviewed studies on the safety of the mercury amalgams so emphasized by dental insurance companies. The review of the mercury amalgams took place over several years. The controversy is so deep that the FDA wanted to be absolutely sure that the public was safe. To date, there is no evidence to link mercury amalgams to toxic levels in the body and adverse side effects. This includes those who are breastfeeding and their babies, children, and pregnant women. Even those with many fillings have been found to be far below levels considered to be safe.


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