If you have a silver-colored filling, then yes, you have mercury in your mouth. The stuff those fillings are made from, called dental amalgam, is composed of 50% mercury, with silver making up at most 32%.
Mercury is, of course, dangerous to people and the environment, though there’s disagreement about just how dangerous it is in such small amounts and when bound within such a stable alloy. Researchers have come down on both sides of the argument in regards to its effect on humans. When Norway and Denmark banned the use of mercury in dental amalgams, they did so over concerns of industrial waste and pollution, not its effects on the human body. The World Health Organization in 1997 voiced support for the use of dental amalgam and a year later the ADA agreed, saying, “based on available scientific information, amalgam continues to be a safe and effective restorative material.” Still, in 2008, Sweden banned the use of amalgam for both environmental and health reasons.
While scientists struggle to nail down what threat, if any, mercury in fillings poses, other researchers have been busy coming up with alternatives. Composite fillings, composed of a mixture of plastic and glass, not only lack the mercury of amalgam, but can be colored to more closely match the natural color of teeth. Traditionally, composite fillings have been more expensive and less durable than amalgam. For this reason, they are primarily used for small fillings or cosmetic work. However, as the technology improved, composites have come down in price, making them a competitive alternative to amalgam even in larger fillings.
If your child needs a filling, be sure to discuss your options with your pediatric dentist. If they offer white, tooth-colored fillings, that may be an option you want to take advantage of. Kidz Dental Care has completely switched to tooth-colored composite fillings and no longer offers amalgam.