Mercury exposure from dental amalgam fillings: Absorbed dose and the potential for adverse health effects

J. R. Mackert, A. Berglund

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

96 Scopus citations


This review examines the question of whether adverse health effects are attributable to amalgam-derived mercury. The issue of absorbed dose of mercury from amalgam is addressed first. The use of intra-oral Hg vapor measurements to estimate daily uptake must take into account the differences between the collection volume and flow rate of the measuring instrument and the inspiratory volume and flow rate of air through the mouth during inhalation of a single breath. Failure to account for these differences will result in substantial overestimation of the absorbed dose. Other factors that must be considered when making estimates of Hg uptake from amalgam include the accurate measurement of baseline (unstimulated) mercury release rates and the greater stimulation of Hg release afforded by chewing gum relative to ordinary food. The measured levels of amalgam-derived mercury in brain, blood, and urine are shown to be consistent with low absorbed doses (1-3 μg/day). Published relationships between the number of amalgam surfaces and urine levels are used to estimate the number of amalgam surfaces that would be required to produce the 30 μg/g creatinine urine mercury level stated by WHO to be associated with the most subtle, pre-clinical effects in the most sensitive individuals. From 450 to 530 amalgam surfaces would be required to produce the 30 μg/g creatinine urine mercury level for people without any excessive gum-chewing habits. The potential for adverse health effects and for improvement in health following amalgam removal is also addressed. Finally, the issue of whether any material can ever be completely exonerated of claims of producing adverse health effects is considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-436
Number of pages27
JournalCritical Reviews in Oral Biology and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997



  • Dental amalgam
  • Mercury
  • Pharmacokinetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Dentistry(all)

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