FDA to review risks of mercury fillings

LOS ANGELES On Friday, the FDA agreed to take a second look at how much mercury patients are exposed to and whether or not there are negative health effects.

Diana Franklin had silver fillings for years, but one day she read about the potential health concerns over mercury exposure so she had them switched out for white ones.

"I'm thrilled that I had mine removed," said Franklin. "To me it's a double advantage because I don't have the mercury in my mouth anymore, but when I smile you don't see the silver."

Many people and consumer groups share the same concerns about mercury. So the FDA is holding a public meeting and asking experts to assess how much mercury dental patients are exposed to, especially for children and pregnant women.

Last year, the agency declared the fillings posed no risk.

"More and more, every patient, every day, they're asking for removal of silver fillings," said Dr. Sid Solomon, D.D.S., founder of the Center for Cosmetic, Implant, and Neuromuscular Dentistry in Beverly Hills.

Dr. Solomon said he stopped using silver fillings 15 years ago. He usually tells his patients to gradually change them as needed.

"If there's a filling that is leaking or it's been there for more than 10 years, obviously it's time to change it and why not get mercury-free fillings in the mouth and have a better look as well," he said.

The American Dental Association says porcelain fillings are more attractive, but not always as durable or strong as silver, especially for back teeth.

Based on the results from the public meeting, the FDA can take one of three actions. It can continue to back silver fillings, it can urge more caution in using them or it can ban the fillings all together.

The ADA said there's no reason to revisit this issue since there are no new scientific findings. Opponents still believe dental amalgam can cause potentially harmful mercury poisoning.

Next week, the government's panel of experts will meet again to hear arguments and public testimony from both sides of the issue. After that, they'll give their advice and recommendation to the FDA.

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