Dental Amalgam Being Phased Out in UK

Peter Russell

March 20, 2017

The use of dental amalgam for fillings will be reduced in phases, the European Parliament has agreed.

New legislation aims at phasing out dental amalgam by 2030 as part of plans to reduce mercury pollution.

What is dental amalgam?

Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, copper, tin and zinc. Around 50% of the mixture is mercury, which is added to bind the metals together into a workable material to fill tooth cavities.

Most people will recognise dental amalgam as the silver-coloured fillings in people's mouths.

Why is it being phased out?

Mercury is a pollutant that harms the environment and human health.

The European Union wants to reduce the use of mercury to bring it into line with the 2013 United Nations Minamata Convention against mercury pollution.

What will happen to amalgam fillings?

The vote in the European Parliament and the expected ratification by the European Council will bring the EU into line with the Convention's aim at 'phasing down' the use of mercury.

There will also be an EU assessment of whether to phase out dental amalgam entirely by 2030.

The British Dental Association (BDA) says the move has ended months of speculation that dental amalgam might have been banned outright by 2022.

It says dentists in the UK will continue to have the full range of filling materials at their disposal to enable them to address the individual needs of each patient.

But are mercury-based fillings safe?

The BDA says evidence shows that dental amalgam is a safe material for patients undergoing restorative dentistry.

It says that in the mouth, mercury is amalgamated with other metals and is therefore rendered inert.

Chewing can release some mercury vapour but this is very minimal.

However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) suggests it may be prudent not to place or remove amalgam fillings in pregnant women, although it says there is no evidence to suggest it would be harmful to do so.

Are there alternatives to amalgam for fillings?

Yes. Fillings on the NHS may also be made of a tooth-coloured composite of powdered glass and ceramic added to a resin base.

However, these are not as hard-wearing as amalgam fillings.

Tooth-coloured fillings are more usual for front teeth, whereas they are considered purely cosmetic for back teeth.

All fillings on the NHS are covered by Band 2 charges.


European Parliament News

British Dental Association

NHS Choices


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