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J Am Dent Assoc. 2008 Nov;139(11):1496-505.

Immune function effects of dental amalgam in children: a randomized clinical trial.

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Department of Pathology, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Dental amalgam is a widely used restorative material containing 50 percent elemental mercury that emits mercury vapor. No randomized clinical trials have determined whether there are adverse immunological effects associated with this low-level mercury exposure in children. The objective of this study was to evaluate a subpopulation of the participants in the New England Children's Amalgam Trial for in vitro manifestations of immunotoxic effects of dental amalgam.


The authors conducted a randomized clinical trial in which children requiring dental restorative treatment were randomly assigned to receive either amalgam for posterior restorations or resin-based composite restorations. They assessed 66 children, aged 6 to 10 years, for total white blood cell counts, specific lymphocyte (T-cell and B-cell) counts and lymphocyte, neutrophil and monocyte responsiveness across a five-year period. Because of the small number of participants, the authors acknowledge that the study is exploratory in nature and has limited statistical power.


The mean number of tooth surfaces restored during the five-year period was 7.8 for the amalgam group and 10.1 for the composite group. In the amalgam group, there was a slight, but not statistically significant, decline in responsiveness of T cells and monocytes at five to seven days after treatment; the authors consistently observed no differences at six, 12 or 60 months.


The findings of this study confirm that treatment of children with amalgam restorations leads to increased, albeit low-level, exposure to mercury. In this exploratory analysis of immune function, amalgam exposure did not cause overt immune deficits, although small transient effects were observed five to seven days after restoration placement.


These findings suggest that immunotoxic effects of amalgam restorations are minimal and transient in children and most likely do not need to be of concern to practitioners considering the use of this restorative dental material.

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