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The facts about dental amalgam and high-strength MRI scanners

Blog Author Damien Walmsley

Blog Date 28/06/2018

​Headlines this week, again, put dental amalgam in the spotlight, with a small study published in Radiology indicating that ultra-high-strength 7-Tesla MRI scanners may release mercury from amalgam fillings in teeth.

The scanners rely on strong magnets to work and researchers suggest the magnets could break down amalgam fillings.

We were asked to comment by BBC news online on the story, and we pointed out that dental amalgam fillings have been in use and extensively studied for 150 years as a restorative material, their safety and durability are well established, and it remains the most appropriate material for a range of clinical situations.

Official guidance from Government states that there is no justification for removing these fillings as a precaution, except in those patients properly diagnosed as having allergic reactions to amalgam, a rare situation.

As the BDA's Scientific Adviser, I said patients should be reassured that they do not need to be concerned if they are having a conventional MRI scan.

The new ultra-high-strength MRI scanners, which were only approved by the US Food and Drug Administration last year, are now being introduced into some research hospitals in the UK. We've said more studies are needed to better assess the potential risks linked with powerful medical scanners such as these.

From Sunday 1 July, the regulations on which groups of patients you can use dental amalgam is changing. UK law will be that dental amalgam should not be used in the treatment of deciduous teeth, in children under 15 years-old, and in pregnant or breastfeeding women, except when deemed strictly necessary by a dentist based on the specific medical needs of the patient.

The new measures being adopted by the UK Government are for environmental protection reasons and do not reflect any evidence-based concerns about adverse human health issues for patients who have dental amalgam fillings."

Our advice and FAQs offer help and support on ensuring you are complying with the new regulations, and we point to some useful resources when talking to your patients about this issue. 

Professor Damien Walmsley

BDA Scientific Adviser


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