Dentist amalgam exposure increases systemic mercury levels

Occupational exposure to dental amalgam poses a potential risk of increasing systemic mercury levels, according to a new study in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery (October 7, 2010).

Researchers from the University of Southern Santa Catarina in Brazil wanted to evaluate the systemic mercury levels in the urine of patients and dental school students caused by exposure to silver amalgam.

"It is currently believed that occupational exposure shows the highest rate of potential for poisoning by mercury," they wrote, and "dental professionals are part of that quota."

The researchers examined 40 urine samples from 20 subjects, dividing them into four sampling groups:

  1. G1A (n = 10): students before their first occupational contact
  2. G1B (n = 10): the same G1 students after their first contact
  3. G2A (n = 10): patients who needed to have dental restorations before amalgam removal
  4. G2B (n = 10): patients who needed to have dental restoration after amalgam removal

Using cold-vapor atomic absorption spectrophotometry (CVAAS), the researchers found a statistically significant difference between groups 1 and 2 (p = 0.0038), whereas mercury levels increased considerably after the first occupational contact of all subjects.

"Occupational exposure to dental amalgam poses a potential risk of increasing systemic mercury levels, although urine mercury levels in all the sample participants were below the limits of biologic tolerance," the researchers concluded.

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