Dental amalgam fillings are probably the most widely used type of dental fillings. They’ve also faced some backlash. The amount of mercury in amalgam fillings has long been a subject of debate. Mainly since dental amalgam releases mercury vapor. Apparently, that’s not the only bad thing to come out of dental amalgam fillings. Aside from human health, mercury from dental fillings could be contaminating water supplies. But why is there such a negative impact between dental fillings and environment?
It all begins with how the dental amalgam fillings are treated. At the dental office, your amalgam fillings often end up in the sewage. And even if you get the wastewater treated, bits of the mercury from the amalgam waste can remain in seemingly clean water. When this goes back into local waterways, it can make its way into the environment during irrigation or aquaculture. It’s no wonder, then, why, you’re bound to find different sources of mercury in the environment.
With this negative link between dental fillings and environment, what can we do to lessen this impact?
Amalgam waste is usually clumped in with other sources of garbage
When it comes to removing or replacing dental amalgam fillings, not all dental offices have the same practices. Some practices approach it like a standard filling removal.
Before the start of the procedure, you’ll take anesthesia. This numbs out any pain or discomfort. The type of anesthesia depends on your level of pain tolerance and anxiety. From there, dentists opt whether or not to use a dental dam. This is a thin piece of rubber lining placed over your mouth to catch any falling debris from the filling removal. They then place the new filling. After some cleaning and polishing, you’re all good to go.
Because dental amalgam fillings contain mercury, however, other dentists prepare more thoroughly when removing them. Amalgam releases mercury vapor during removal, so other dental offices use other medical devices to ensure their patient’s safety. This can include a nasal respirator to protect patients from breathing in mercury vapor. Patients who get their dental amalgam fillings removed also gargle a rinse of activated charcoal to bind to the mercury.
But it’s what happens after where dental fillings and environment come together. Once your dentist shaves the fillings off, some dental offices dump them into the same waste bin. Unlike most hazardous waste, however, mercury has properties that make it hard to dispose of. Especially once it contaminates other surfaces. When it makes its way to wastewater treatment facilities, mercury in dental amalgam becomes an environmental problem.
Using amalgam separators reduces the sources of mercury in the environment
Dental offices all around the US are now required to have amalgam separators installed. This combats the trouble the amount of mercury in amalgam fillings poses. They should also separate amalgam waste from other types of medical waste. This is so that it can be recycled as well.
The relationship between dental fillings and environment doesn’t have to be a negative. Just dispose of it properly.