A very small but vociferous movement within the dental profession wants to do away with a staple of their craft found in the mouths of millions: silver fillings. These fillings, or amalgams, have also contained mercury for the entire 150 years they have been used to plug cavities.
The typical silver filling is a combination of metals, including silver, mercury, tin, copper, and zinc. Mercury, however, constitutes about 50 percent of a filling. Some now point to this mercury as the underlying cause for conditions ranging from neurological disorders to premenstrual syndrome.
The mainstream dental community dismisses the claims as unsubstantiated, but the small core of anti-amalgamists maintain their ground. One protagonist argues that mercury from amalgams comes off and accumulates in tissues and that brushing teeth or chewing gum can exert enough pressure to transform solid amalgam mercury into a vapor that can be swallowed. Once mercury is in the blood, it can travel to other organs.