The Importance of Safe Mercury Removal in Lake Oswego, OR

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The Importance of Safe Mercury Removal

Amalgam (silver) fillings have been part of dentistry for centuries, but while silver fillings are strong and reliable, they contain mercury. Mercury is a toxic metallic element that can be released as a vapor when you bite down or try to have your silver fillings removed. Exposure to even low levels of mercury can cause numerous side effects ranging in severity from tiredness to difficulty breathing, especially for high-risk groups. 

At Aesthetic Dentistry of Lake Oswego, Lake Oswego holistic dentist Dr. Larry Bowden practices mercury-safe dentistry and safe mercury removal to protect the health of his patients from this harmful material.

What is Safe Mercury Removal?

Safe mercury removal is a dental procedure that aims to minimize exposure to mercury during the removal of silver fillings. Mercury removal systems involve several procedures categorized into four main categories: 

  1. Minimizing the release of mercury from the filling
    • Using a high-speed suction device to capture mercury vapor and particles.
    • Flushing the filling with copious amounts of water to cool the filling and reduce vapor release.
    • Using a rubber dam to isolate the tooth and prevent debris from being swallowed or inhaled.
  2. Intercepting escaped mercury
    • Placing a saliva ejector under the rubber dam to reduce mercury exposure to the patient.
  3. Filtering the office air
    • Using an efficient air filtration system to remove mercury particles from the air.
  4. Cleaning and disposal
    • Properly cleaning the patient’s mouth and removing any contaminated materials, such as gloves, patient coverings, and the rubber dam.
  5. Additional Methods for Mercury Removal
    • Flushing the system of mercury using supplements.

Minimizing Mercury During Amalgam Filling Removal

Cooling the Fillings

The amount of mercury vapor released from an amalgam filling is directly proportional to its temperature. Drilling out an amalgam filling generates a tremendous amount of heat, which in turn releases significantly more vapor. Cooling the filling by using as much water as possible during the process will significantly reduce the amount of mercury vapor released.

Chunking Amalgams

Mercury-safe holistic dentists like Dr. Bowden can achieve safe mercury removal through a process called “chunking.” Chunking involves your dentist using a special drill bit to section the filling into large chunks. These chunks can then be easily removed by a hand instrument or suction. This procedure reduces drilling time as well as the amount of mercury vapor released.

Intercepting Mercury During Amalgam Filling Removal

High-Volume Evacuation

Mercury-safe dentists can also use a powerful suction vacuum system for safe mercury removal in a process called high-volume evacuation. High-volume evacuation minimizes your exposure to mercury vapor because, in effect, the suction intercepts the vapor before you can breathe it in. The tip of the suction/vacuum hose will be placed as close to the filling as possible during the entire removal process. This procedure captures most of the mercury vapor and particles released as the filling is removed.

Air Filtration

Filtering the Office Air

At Aesthetic Dentistry of Lake Oswego, we filter the office air because we work in it all day, and it benefits everyone. The air filtration at our Lake Oswego office helps us take the necessary precautions to protect our entire staff from repeated and excessive exposure to mercury. 

Using Additional Air Purification

Your mercury-safe dentist may also use an additional air filtering system that’s placed as close to your mouth as is practical. The more popular ones resemble an elephant’s trunk and have an opening about four inches in diameter. This filter is helpful in further removing mercury vapor and protecting you as well as your dentist and their assistants during safe mercury removal. 

Alternative Source of Air

All mercury-safe dentists adhere to the first three protocols of safe mercury amalgam removal. However, Dr. Bowden goes above and beyond in his safe mercury removal procedures by providing an alternative source of air to breathe. Some feel that as long as the first three procedures are strictly followed, alternative air sources aren’t necessary. However, Dr. Bowden insists on an alternative source of air for added safety, especially if you’re in a high-risk category such as pregnancy or nursing.

An alternative source of air flows through a nasal hood, which covers your nose. Through this hood, you breathe either compressed air or oxygen from a tank. Dr. Bowden and his team will help you concentrate on breathing through your nostrils and avoid breathing through your mouth while your mercury fillings are being removed.

Cleaning The Patient and Disposing of Contaminated Material

Disposal of Materials & Residue

Once the safe mercury removal process is completed, your Lake Oswego dentist and assistant will remove and properly dispose of their gloves and the rubber dam (if used) before thoroughly rinsing and vacuuming your entire mouth for at least 10 seconds. This process helps remove amalgam particles and residual mercury captured by the saliva. 

We’ll encourage you to make every effort not to swallow during the short rinsing procedure to further aid in safe mercury removal. When this is finished, we’ll give you water for you to gargle as far back into your throat as possible. Once you’ve gargled, don’t swallow this watery residue! It will be evacuated by our dental assistant or spit into a cup. 

In addition, when the removal procedure is finished, your dentist or dental assistant will remove and properly dispose of your protective covering and clean your face and neck. Proper cleaning helps ensure you don’t take any mercury home.

Additional Steps for Safe Mercury Removal

Using Activated Charcoal

Emerging evidence suggests that activated charcoal taken soon after mercury exposure or 10-15 minutes before amalgam removal can capture swallowed elemental mercury and mercury vapor, allowing it to be harmlessly passed out of the intestine. 

Dr. Bowden usually considers this to be an optional step, as only 0.01 percent of swallowed elemental mercury is absorbed through the intestine. However, it can’t hurt to add it as an extra precaution for your procedure. Your Lake Oswego dentist is likely to recommend it if you’re in the high mercury risk category.

Vitamin C Infusions

Select dentists and health professionals consider vitamin C (ascorbic acid) infusions to be an effective method of protecting the body from mercury vapor during safe mercury removal. Based on his evaluations of the available data, Dr. Bowden supports the vitamin C protocol and believes it can protect the body from mercury vapor when it’s in the bloodstream. 

If you’re a high-risk patient, such as those allergic to mercury or have numerous symptoms and diseases related to a chronic mercury-compromised immune system, Dr. Bowden will likely recommend the vitamin C protocol. Because vitamin C may diminish the effect of the anesthetic in some people and is administered intravenously, your dentist and a qualified health practitioner will coordinate a vitamin C infusion. Dr. Bowden will likely give you your infusion after the anesthetic takes effect.


Dr. Bowden recommends starting a mercury detoxification supplement program before having your fillings removed. Bringing your mercury levels down beforehand will not only help improve your overall health but will also prevent your mercury levels from spiking to dangerous levels from exposure to abnormal amounts of mercury during the removal process.

Common supplements used for mercury detoxification include vitamin C, activated charcoal, and garlic. However, unsupervised supplement use can be detrimental to your overall health. For example, charcoal doesn’t just aid in safe mercury removal — it can also cancel out the effects of medications such as antidepressants, diabetes medication, and steroids in asthma inhalers. Your Lake Oswego mercury-safe dentist insists that you don’t start any supplement regimen before you consult with him and your primary health care provider.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is it safe to remove amalgam fillings?
How much does it cost to safely remove mercury amalgam fillings?
How long does safe mercury removal take?
Is safe mercury removal painful?
Is it safe to remove amalgam fillings?

Yes, it’s safe to remove amalgam fillings if the procedure is done by a mercury-safe dentist. Mercury-safe dentists follow specific protocols to minimize the amount of mercury released from the filling and intercept the mercury that escapes before the patient breathes it in. These protocols include cooling the fillings, chunking amalgams, using high-volume evacuation, providing an alternative source of air, using a rubber dam, and filtering office air.

How much does it cost to safely remove mercury amalgam fillings?

The exact cost of any given safe mercury removal technique depends on numerous factors. This includes the number of amalgam fillings, the type of safe mercury amalgam removal technique, and your insurance coverage. It’s a good idea to contact your insurance provider beforehand to confirm which costs they can cover. You may also want to talk to your dentist about their in-office financing options. 

How long does safe mercury removal take?

The exact time it will take to safely remove your silver fillings will vary. Safe mercury removal is a meticulous process, performed with the safety of you, your dentist, and any other dental professionals present in mind. We strive to minimize removal time to reduce mercury exposure, but the procedure may take more time if you have more than one mercury filling. 

Is safe mercury removal painful?

The mercury removal process should be virtually painless. Dentists should apply a local anesthetic before safe mercury removal and ensure it’s working before they proceed. A skilled mercury-safe dentist will prioritize your safety as well as your comfort.  

Choose Safe Mercury Removal For A Healthier Smile!

With safe mercury removal, Dr. Bowden can help ensure your smile is healthy and significantly lower your risk of mercury poisoning. If you’re interested in enjoying a healthier smile with safe mercury removal, contact Aesthetic Dentistry of Lake Oswego by dialing (503) 675-7300. You can also request an appointment by clicking the button below. 

Dr. Bowden proudly offers mercury-safe dentistry and years of experience to our new and returning Lake Oswego patients, as well as patients from surrounding areas such as Portland, Tualatin, Wilsonville, Beaverton, Tigard, and Sherwood, OR.