Mercury derived from dental amalgams and neuropsychologic function

Pam Factor-Litvak, Gunnar Hasselgren, Diane Jocobs, Melissa Begg, Jennie Kline, Jamie Geier, Nancy Mervish, Sonia Schoenholtz, Joseph Graziano

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69 Scopus citations


There is widespread concern regarding the safety of silver-mercury amalgam dental restorations, yet little evidence to support their harm or safety. We examined whether mercury dental amalgams are adversely associated with cognitive functioning in a cross-sectional sample of healthy working adults. We studied 550 adults, 30-49 years of age, who were not occupationally exposed to mercury. Participants were representative of employees at a major urban medical center. Each participant underwent a neuropsychologic test battery, a structured questionnaire, a modified dental examination, and collection of blood and urine samples. Mercury exposure was assessed using a) urinary mercury concentration (UHg); b) the total number of amalgam surfaces; and c) the number of occlusal amalgam surfaces. Linear regression analysis was used to estimate associations between each marker of mercury exposure and each neuropsychologic test, adjusting for potential confounding variables. Exposure levels were relatively low. The mean UHg was 1.7 μg/g creatinine (range, 0.09-17.8); the mean total number of amalgam surfaces was 10.6 (range, 0-46) and the mean number of occlusal amalgam surfaces was 6.1 (range, 0-19). No measure of exposure was significantly associated with the scores on any neuropsychologic test in analyses that adjusted for the sampling design and other covariates. In a sample of healthy working adults, mercury exposure derived from dental amalgam restorations was not associated with any detectable deficits in cognitive or fine motor functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-723
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Cognition
  • Dental amalgams
  • Memory
  • Mercury exposure
  • Neuropsychologic function


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