The disposal of dental amalgam, specifically the mercury component, has become a controversial topic in the past twenty years. Due to the concern this issue brings, many studies have taken place regarding the effect of mercury on the environment and in humans.
Amalgam is the most common material used in restorative dentistry due to its low cost, ease of use and stability (Chin et al., 2000). The basic ingredients include silver, tin, copper and mercury. Mercury is the most abundant component in amalgam and can be toxic in different forms, such as dust or vapor (Drummond, Cailas & Croke, 2003).
Amalgam waste is generated during placement and replacement of restorative materials. There are two types of amalgam waste: contact and non-contact amalgam. Contact amalgam includes amalgam that has been in contact with the tooth surface. Non-contact amalgam includes excess material that was either not placed in the restoration or left in the capsule that the amalgam came in. Contact amalgam accounts for the majority of the contaminants in dental waste water, while non-contact amalgam is recyclable and can be used for refinement (Drummond et al., 2003)
Non-contact amalgam is not considered to be a health hazard if stored and recycled properly. The mercury component can be hazardous in a dust or vapor form. To prevent detrimental effects from the vapor, amalgam should be stored in an airtight container. This scrap amalgam should also be stored in a liquid, which will prevent the breakdown of amalgam into its components. Water is the most common liquid used but radiographic fixer is considered to be more effective for amalgam storage and the prevention of degradation (Chin...
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using an international standard. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 137, 999-1005.
Chin, G., Chong, J., Kluczewska, A., Lau, A., Gorjy, S., & Tennant, M. (2000). The
environmental effects of dental amalgam. Australian Dental Journal, 45(4), 246-249.
Drummond, J. L., Cailas, M. D., & Croke, K. (2003). Mercury generation potential from dental
waste amalgam. Journal of Dentistry, 31, 493-501.
Jokstad, A., & Fan, P. L. (2006). Amalgam waste management. International Dental Journal,
Jones, D. W. (2004). Putting dental mercury pollution into perspective. British Dental Journal,
Mohapatra, S. P., Nikolova, I., & Mitchell, A. (2007). Managing mercury in the great lakes: An
analytical review of abatement policies. Journal of Environmental Management, 83, 80-92.
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