One of the reasons why many people get mercury amalgam fillings is that they’re cheaper. Unfortunately, although mercury amalgam fillings may be offered for less at the dentist’s office, the real cost to an individual and to society as a whole is much higher.
A recent study attempted to quantify the cost of mercury amalgam fillings and estimated that the overall costs of silver fillings approaches $7 billion in the US alone.
The Social Cost of Mercury Amalgam
A 2012 study looking into the cost of mercury amalgam fillings quantified the cost of these fillings on a social basis. It compared the initial cost of the fillings, which it estimated to be $144 for a metal amalgam filling and $185 for a composite filling, then added in the additional costs incurred by society to deal with the presence of mercury.
The study looked at two alternate cost scenarios. The first was based on trying to control the mercury from fillings to prevent it from entering the environment, either through water or air. In this scenario, the cost to prevent 90% of mercury in fillings from entering the environment was estimated at $41-67 per filling. This means that at a minimum the cost of mercury amalgam fillings is the same as for composite fillings, and up to 14% more.
The second scenario was based on the savings we would accrue if we phased out mercury amalgam fillings altogether. That is, the savings of preventing metal amalgam fillings from being placed. It includes a wide variety of factors, from health benefits to job creation, and it puts the additional cost of mercury amalgam fillings much higher, $60-128 per filling, making the total cost of metal amalgam fillings up to $272, or 47% higher than composite fillings. Summing this cost over the number of amalgam fillings placed in the US leads to a total cost of over $6.5 billion, as estimated based on 2009’s costs.
Your Personal Cost
Although this social cost isn’t borne entirely by you, there are other personal costs you will incur as a result of your mercury amalgam fillings. There are potential health risks, but there’s also the price of having an unattractive smile that makes you self-conscious and less able to enjoy your life. This cost is much higher and is suffered on a daily basis.