Yet the voices opposed to amalgams have not ceased. For one thing, there is an almost intuitive feeling that mercury—a known toxic substance—can only do harm inside the mouth, through vapor and transmitted by saliva. In addition, some studies and autopsies have revealed higher mercury levels in the bloodstream and tissues of those whose teeth contain amalgams. Still more inquiries link amalgams to conditions like chronic fatigue and even Alzheimer’s Disease. At the same time, we consume and breathe in toxins every day from myriad sources. The operative question is how much can we tolerate without experiencing illness.

The American Dental Association contends that there are no controlled studies showing a positive link between amalgams—as presently composed—and adverse effects on overall health. The organization cites research from the World Health Organization, the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Medical Association and, most recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that confirms no such positive connection has (as of yet) been made. For the unconvinced, however, many dentists can employ alternatives to amalgams like gold (pricey) or porcelain composites. Ultimately, patient demand will override scientific debate.