The purpose of this paper is to examine and report on studies that relate mercury levels in human tissues to the presence of dental amalgams, giving special attention to autopsy studies. Until recently, there have been few published studies examining the relationship between dental amalgams and tissue mercury levels. Improved and highly sensitive tissue analysis techniques have made it possible to measure elements in the concentration range of parts per billion. The fact that mercury can be absorbed and reach toxic levels in human tissues makes any and all exposure to that element of scientific interest. Dental amalgams have long been believed to be of little significance as contributors to the overall body burden of mercury, because the elemental form of mercury is rapidly consumed in the setting reaction of the restoration. Studies showing measurable elemental mercury vapor release from dental amalgams have raised renewed concern about amalgam safety. Mercury vapor absorption occurs through the lungs, with about 80% of the inhaled vapor being absorbed by the lungs and rapidly entering the bloodstream. Following distribution by blood circulation, mercury can enter and remain in certain tissues for longer periods of time, since the half-life of excretion is prolonged. Two of the primary target organs of concern are the central nervous system and kidneys.
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