Dr. Tom McGuire on the difference between “mercury-free” and “mercury-safe” dentistry:
Strictly speaking, the term “Mercury Free” refers to dentists who do not put amalgam fillings in their patients’ teeth. This term was first used over 40 years ago by dentists who wanted to distinguish themselves from other dentists who believed that mercury amalgams were safe and continued to use them.
However, the term Mercury Free wasn’t a truly accurate description because even dentists who didn’t put in amalgam fillings still had to remove them – and the removal process released excessive and unnecessary amounts of toxic mercury vapor. But while being Mercury Free was a good beginning – it solved only part of the problem.
Over time, dentists who were Mercury Free developed protocols and equipment that allowed them to dramatically minimize a patient’s exposure to mercury during the amalgam removal process. In effect, using these protocols meant that their practices were not just Mercury (amalgam) Free – but also were now Mercury Safe – yet they erroneously continued to only use the term Mercury Free to describe themselves. But times have changed and the term “Mercury Free” is not only inadequate but confusing and misleading!
Today it is no longer enough for a dentist who is both Mercury (amalgam) Free and Mercury Safe to just promote his or her practice as being Mercury Free. Why? Recently a survey showed that 52% of general dentists no longer use amalgam and call themselves Mercury Free. But, and this is important for every dental patient to know; not because they were concerned about safely removing them – but mainly because they no longer felt amalgam was a good filling material when compared to the newer composite fillings.
This of course has created a dilemma for patients who believed that dentists who said they were Mercury (amalgam) Free meant they also used protocols to safely remove amalgam fillings. But patients are catching on and now look for dentists who will safely remove their amalgam fillings and now ask this question of the dentist: “Are you both Mercury Free and Mercury Safe?” Bottom line . . . you can’t assume that a dentist who advertises his or her practice as being Mercury – amalgam – Free, is also Mercury Safe – unless you ask!
Safer Amalgam Removal