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Prop 65 and Dental Mercury: New Warnings

Prop 65 and Dental Mercury: New Warnings

“Proposition 65, officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The proposition protects the state’s drinking water sources from being contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and requires businesses to inform Californians about exposures to such chemicals. Proposition 65 requires the state to maintain and update a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.” SOURCE

Dental offices can expose you to chemicals on the Proposition 65 list during some procedures.  These include sedation with nitrous oxide; some root canals, crown placements or removals, dental bridge placements; tooth restorations with fillings that contain mercury; and the use of some dental appliances.

Examples of chemicals you may be exposed to in dental offices include:

  • Mercury.  A heavy liquid metal, mercury is used in some silver-colored dental amalgam fillings.
  • Nitrous Oxide.  Commonly known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is used in combination with other gases to ease pain and anxiety during certain dental procedures. 

How does exposure to these chemicals occur in dental offices?

  • Dental patients breathe in nitrous oxide and mercury vapors during dental procedures.  They can also swallow low levels of mercury vapor during the placement or removal of dental amalgam fillings.
  • During pregnancy, mercury can pass to the unborn baby when:
    • The mother has amalgam fillings put in or removed.
    • The mother has amalgam fillings and grinds her teeth.

During pregnancy, nitrous oxide can pass to the unborn baby when the mother undergoes a dental procedure using this gas.  SOURCE