Dental amalgam, sometimes called “silver amalgam,” is a commonly used material for filling cavities. Over the years, concerns have been raised about the dental applications of amalgam because it contains mercury. The peer-reviewed Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology (JOMT) has published new research, which reports that safety levels for mercury exposure can be exceeded during drilling on amalgam fillings in the absence of specific precautions.
Findings of the Study
After reviewing the previously published study on mercury discharged during amalgam removal, significant new data has been derived from the recent research on this topic. The data is labeled under “Mercury vapor volatilization from particulate produced by dental amalgam removal with a quick dental drill- a major source of exposure.”
The research further mentions that the standard techniques seem to be inadequate when evaluating mercury exposure during drilling on dental amalgam. This is because these methods ignore a neglected source - mercury vapor released from particles of the filling produced by drilling. The new study also highlights the need for specific safety measures that can reduce mercury levels and provide more proper protection for patients and dental workers.
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Lead author of the study, David Warwick, DDS, advises that the research cautions dentists to implement OSHA-based engineering controls. According to Warwick, the study also provides additional recommendations to follow during amalgam drilling by a high-speed drill. This ensures that patients and dental workers are adequately protected. These techniques should be used during the:
- Preparation for restoration
- Establishment of an endodontic passage opening as performed for a root canal treatment
- Sectioning off a tooth during extraction
- Removal of amalgam fillings in a dental clinic or a laboratory setting in dental schools
Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART)
The IAOMT has devised a Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART) based on the scientific literature on amalgam filling removal. SMART is a specific sequence of measures that dentists can apply to ensure a significant reduction in mercury levels emitted during amalgam filling removal. This is crucial for the safety of the patients, other dental professionals, and the environment.