The Difference Between Mercury-Free and Mercury-Safe Dentistry


Mercury-Free & Mercury-Safe: What’s the Difference

By Dr. Tom McGuire

One of the questions I’m asked the most is “What is the difference between Mercury-Free Dentists and Mercury-Safe Dentists?” It is a great question because there is a significant difference between them and it is important for patients to know the difference between the two. (For those who may not be aware of it – silver/amalgam fillings contain 50% elemental mercury – one of the most poisonous, non- radioactive, naturally occurring substance on the planted. Toxic mercury vapor is released from them during any form of stimulation – including when they are removed.)

Strictly speaking, the term “mercury-free” refers to dentists who do not put amalgam/silver fillings in their patients’ teeth. This term was first used over 40 years ago by dentists who wanted to distinguish themselves from dentists who felt that amalgams were a harmless filling material and continued to use them. Simply put, becoming mercury-free is a decision a dentist makes to no longer use silver/amalgam filling material to fill patients’ teeth– for whatever reason.

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. Even though not placing them didn’t eliminate exposure to mercury when they are removed – it was a good beginning.

Over time, dentists who were mercury-free developed more effective protocols* and equipment that allowed them to dramatically minimize a patient’s exposure to mercury vapor during the removal process. In effect, using these safe protocols meant that their practices were not just mercury-free, but also mercury-safe.

Yet they mistakenly continued to only use the term mercury-free to describe themselves. That was effective for for many years because dentistry consisted of those who used amalgam and those who didn’t – but things have changed!

Today it is no longer enough for a dentist who is both amalgam-free and mercury-safe to just promote his or her practice as mercury-free. Why? Recently a survey showed that 52% of general dentists no longer use amalgam and now call their practices mercury-free. But, and this is important for every dental patient to know; not because they were concerned about safely removing them – but because the majority no longer felt amalgam was a good filling material when compared to the newer composite fillings.

Dentists who promote their practices as being mercury-free – but are not mercury-safe – have created a problem for patients who had believed that dentists who said they were mercury free (amalgam silver filling-free) also meant they used protocols to safely remove amalgam fillings.

But there is an easy solution to this dilemma for the dental patient. Patients who are looking for a dentist who will safely remove their amalgam fillings must ask the question: “Are you both mercury-free and mercury-safe?” Bottom line . . . you can no longer assume that a dentist who advertises his or her practice as being mercury-free (or amalgam-free) is also mercury-safe – unless you ask!

*The Main Difference between a Mercury-Safe and a Dentist who is only Mercury-Free

Unsafe removal of amalgam fillings can generate huge amounts of toxic mercury vapor, easily up to a 100 times more than the maximum levels of mercury vapor allowed by all government regulatory agencies at the workplace. What really separates mercury-safe dentists from those who are only mercury-free, is their understanding that:

When unsafely removed, amalgam fillings release huge amounts of poisonous mercury vapor.

The mercury released from amalgam fillings is readily inhaled and can negatively affect a patient’s health.

Patients (along with the dentist, staff and the environment) need to be protected from exposure to toxic mercury vapor during the amalgam removal process.

Mercury-safe dentists also have the specialized equipment, training, experience, and skills necessary to dramatically minimize their patients’ exposure to mercury during amalgam removal. If you want to protect yourself from excessive and unnecessary occupational exposure to mercury vapor at the dental office – make sure your dentist is not just mercury-free – but also mercury-safe!

Note: Dr. McGuire’s website has more detailed information about the philosophy and recommended protocols used to safely remove amalgam fillings. To access it please go to 

Or if you are a dentist, or a patient who wants to encourage your dentist to become mercury safe, send him or her to

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