Date: Sept 2004
Title: Dental Lasers and Amalgam Fillings
“Can dental laser drills cause mercury to be released from amalgam fillings?” A. Kent, Cleveland, OH.
This is a great question because more and more dentists are using laser drills in their practices. Lasers are relatively new to dentistry, having been introduced in the 1980’s. Today there are many different types of lasers. They are used to treat both soft tissue, such as gums and root canal tissue, and hard tissue, such as enamel and dentin. Laser technology continues to develop new and improved lasers. Used properly in the hands of a skilled dentist, lasers can be a very effective dental tool.
I don’t feel it is productive to get into the technical aspects of dental lasers here because no dental laser is designed or used specifically to remove mercury amalgam fillings. Even though the main purpose of dental lasers is to treat gum disease, detect decay, and prepare a tooth for a filling, lasers can and do come in contact with mercury amalgam fillings. Because I am so concerned about any mercury exposure a person may have, I look at every potential source.
What You Need to Know about Dental Lasers and Mercury Release
Here is what you need to know about dental lasers. All of them will generate heat to varying degrees, and some can actually remove amalgam particles. Very little research has been done regarding the effects of dental lasers on amalgam fillings. But we do know that heating an amalgam filling will increase the release of mercury vapor. We know that all dental lasers heat the surface of any substance they contact. One study did put the two together. It showed that when lasers were directed at amalgam fillings, the release of mercury vapor increased.
I’m confident that more studies will be done in this area. But until we have more definitive evidence, I feel it is important that you tell your dentist, whether anti- or pro-amalgam, not to direct any laser on your amalgam fillings for any reason. There are other ways to remove amalgam fillings, and I see no reason for putting a laser in contact with them.
I doubt if many dentists have even considered the effect a laser could have on a mercury amalgam filling. This lack of awareness could mean they inadvertently pass the laser over amalgam fillings. Remember, there is no safe level of mercury. Any amount of mercury is harmful to the body.
Last updated:Tue, Aug 17, 2004