The use of mercury in dentistry is very controversial. It's been around for ever and millions, if not billions of teeth have been saved by restorations made from mercury containing dental amalgam.
There is a creeping tide against mercury, not just in dentistry but in all kinds of industries. Mercury is used in all kinds of industries - you'll probably be horrified to discover that it's a common component in mascara. It's also a key component in fluorescent light bulbs, so they should be disposed of properly through your local recycling centre.
Dental amalgam has now been banned in Norway, Sweden and Denmark and a planned phase down of amalgam is starting as a response to the Minamata Convention on mercury. Amalgam has been so fundamental to world dentistry that no end point has been set for ending its use, but the phase down is vaguely set out in a set of aspirations.
Due to advancing techniques in use in the practice, our use of amalgam eventually became so rare that we decided to completely cease its use. Ironically, it does have benefits for us as a practice, in simplifying some of our COSHH and clinical waste procedures. So, in a peculiar way, we have become mercury free without really thinking about it.
If you'd like us to, we're more than happy to remove amalgam fillings with the protection of dental dam, along with high volume suction. Dam is designed to prevent swallowing of debris from the removal of fillings. Our centralised suction system has centrifugal separation of amalgam waste, so this is routinely collected and recycled via our registered waste carriers, thereby protecting the environment.
So, add the two together and we have a very neat solution to our handling of mercury containing materials. Our patients are also safe in the knowledge that we are many years ahead of general dentistry in the UK, where amalgam is embedded as part of the culture!
Updated 20 June 2016