Amalgam OK during pregnancy

New study finds no increased risk of low-birth-weight infants

Placing a dental amalgam restoration, or even multiple restorations, in the mouth of a pregnant woman does not increase her risk of delivering a low-birth- weight baby, a new study has found.

“We looked at whether there was an association between receiving amalgam fillings during pregnancy and low birth weight. We did not see any evidence of an association, or hints of an association,” says Dr. Philippe Hujoel, lead author of a research team from the University of Washington at Seattle.

“We also looked for dose response,” Dr. Hujoel continues, “by evaluating women who received four to 11 amalgam fillings (during pregnancy). For these women, there were also no hints of an association.

“In summary,” he says, “we found no evidence that mercury-containing dental fillings, placed during pregnancy, increase low-birth-weight risk.”

The study, “Mercury Exposure from Dental Filling Placement During Pregnancy and Low Birth Weight Risk,” appears in the April 15 issue of American Journal of Epidemiology.

Dr. Hujoel is a dentist and epidemiologist in the UW Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and UW Department of Dental Public Health Sciences, School of Dentistry.

His population-based, case/control study was designed to investigate whether the placement of dental amalgams during pregnancy increases the risk of delivering a low-birth-weight baby. The researchers compared a total of 5,585 women who gave birth from 1993-2000 in Washington state.

In conducting this study, Dr. Hujoel says, he wanted to address the concern that mercury exposure during pregnancy may lead to decreased birth weight. Several European countries, in fact, have developed guidelines which suggest that pregnant women should not receive amalgam fillings.

Those guidelines lack any documented adverse effects, but rather are based on precautionary principle. As such, European scientists also have expressed the need for better data.

“Our study does in part address this concern,” Dr. Hujoel says, “by providing an additional small piece of evidence in the larger framework of assessing the safety of dental amalgam.”

He adds, “Our evidence is reasonably consistent with some other reports related to mercury and birth weight. We have some additional information now on the safety profile of dental amalgam–as observed in a reasonably large population of pregnant women–and there is indication that we should not be concerned related to the specific issue of low birth weight.”

To pregnant women who may be concerned about receiving an amalgam filling, Dr. Hujoel says they “should know there is little reason for anxiety.”