Allergy may spark reaction to silver fillings

October 23, 1990|By Gerri Kobren

Is there a cloud behind our silver linings?

In a recent study, Canadian scientists put "silver" fillings, which are half mercury and half silver-tin alloy, in young sheep, which showed signs of kidney failure within months. The scientists thought the mercury might be to blame.

Mercury makes fillings pliable and hardens to a high state of durability. But it's toxic in high doses.

Scientists have known for some time that small amounts of mercury leach out of fillings. But whether that adds up to human fTC risk is still unknown.

So far, only those with a rare allergy have had problems with mercury from fillings, says Dr. Van Thompson, director of dental materials at the University of Maryland's College of Dental Surgery. He says the Canadian sheep may indeed have been allergic to mercury.

And the American Dental Association says that possible replacements for "silver" fillings have some problems too: Gold inlays are more expensive, and composite resins are less durable.

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