As a specialist dental negligence solicitor I have lost count on the amount of times that I have been asked whether a clients can bring a claim against a dentist for placing amalgam or silver (mercury based) fillings in teeth.
The recent move to phase out dental amalgams has come from the UN Environmental Programme in order to address concerns over mercury pollution.
The earliest use of silver fillings were first documented in AD659 and were widely used in Germany from 1528. (wiki source)
Amalgam has been used in dentistry in the UK for over a century and was seen as a stable cost effective solution for restorations.
Mercury is a highly toxic substance but dental amalgam is thought to be relatively safe to use as it is only used in low doses.
I once had a client come to me with a toxicity report (which is interestingly taken from a hair sample) which showed massive amounts of mercury poisoning in his system. He had a mouth full of silver fillings in which the report showed that amalgam vapour was being released through chewing- in a nutshell, the silver fillings were rubbing together when he ate which caused doses of the vapour to enter his system.
Whilst I had a supportive report upon the clients injury, the problem that I have encountered is that no dental expert will report that that the use of amalgam is a breach of duty of care - quite the opposite in fact, even though the dangers of mercury toxicity are widely published - the use of amalgam or silver fillings still goes on regularly in the UK.
Perhaps in a few years when the UN Environmental Programme has taken effect a dental expert may report that the continued use of silver fillings is a breach of duty of care - until that time however, I will have to keep turning down dental claim clients who wish to bring claims against their dentists for placing silver fillings.