What are the patients’ opinions on the health effects of mercury in amalgam?
More assessment4 presentation - 2nd final
By Marise Butler, 2010
As an oral health student I want patients’ to be aware of the properties of
the restorative materials used.
Attention has been placed on the health effects of amalgam.
Patient should have the right information regarding restorative
To understand why patients have formed the opinion that amalgam is
unsafe – is there a health link?
To decrease negative views of amalgam.
What are the patients’ opinions on the
health effects of mercury in amalgam?
To explore dental patients views on mercury
To see if there is a link between mercury in
dental amalgam and the health effects.
As this study is seeking the patients’ opinions regarding the health
effects of mercury in amalgam, the methodology is qualitative.
This is because focus groups will be used as they are the most effective
way for gaining opinions as it allows for discussion about mercury with all
Choosing focus groups over individual interviews allows everyone’s
opinions to be heard and shares knowledge on the topic.
If this research was done using a quantitative approach, opinions would
be limited as surveys do not allow the participant to explain their
thoughts clearly due to short answer questions (Davidson, 2005).
Participants will feel safe in groups and will feel better valued as there
opinion is listened to.
This research study does not use random selection methods (which is a
quantitative method), as it needs specific participants.
Specific data collection called purposive sampling which is a form of non-
probability sampling, samples individuals that are selected due to a
characteristic, in this case the need for restorative restorations with the
option of using amalgam or composite/GIC.
To gain specific participants through the purposive sampling method,
dental professionals (dentists & health care centres) who have prospective
patients with restorative work required will be provided with information
regarding the study.
This information will state that the targeted participants must be familiar
with amalgam and visit their dental professional regularly (Syque, 2010).
Focus groups will be used to seek patient’s opinions regarding amalgam and
composite/GIC, which is a qualitative approach.
Limited numbers of participants in each group, so that each member feels they
have a chance to self-report which is an effective method which allows the
participants to say their opinions on the discussion and be acknowledged (Polit,
A researcher will be used as an instrument, to keep the groups on track,
facilitating the discussion on the health effects of mercury in amalgam.
Data saturation will occur when the focus groups have discussed all the
participants’ views and opinions about the mercury in amalgam and no new
information is being discussed.
Qualitative research data is analyzed throughout the study while it is taking
Have an amalgam background to understand the
The researcher will not contribute to the thoughts or ideas
of the participants, ensuring quality.
Will abide by the three principles of theTreaty of Waitangi.
Will utilise the time the group has allocated.
Open-ended questions allowing the participants to be
able to respond with reasoning. For example: ‘What are
your personal views on the mercury content of amalgam?’
The researcher will record the discussions from the focus
group sessions, but due to confidentiality, the researcher
will not mention or identify any individual involved in the
Rigour is essential in a research study as it provides accuracy.
Reflexivity is used to maintain accuracy, as it requires the researcher to
be aware of contributions they may make or that they themselves might
influence in the focus group sessions which could affect the accuracy of
the study results (Davidson, 2005).
As interpreters will be used, if required, there will be no discrimination
and this will allow participants to feel involved and appreciated.
Auckland University ofTechnology (AUT) as it is a neutral environment.
Food and beverages will be provided to encourage participants to attend
and keep them focused, allowing them to feel able to socialise with each
other (Moon, 2008).
The results of the individual opinions and group
decisions will be documented well, noting the
patterns and/or meaning of the data obtained from
the focus groups.
The responses will be coded which will allow these
themes to emerge.
Thematic analysis is a qualitative data analysis
method. Once the data has been analysed, the
researcher will go over the analysis to gain
confirmation and validation of the results which will
improve rigour (Babbie, 2008).
Dental patients’ opinions on the health effects of
mercury in amalgam will be explored.
These opinions will help to identify if there is any
link between mercury in dental amalgam and
the health effects.
The gap as to why patients are moving away
from a safe restorative material will be identified
Patients will use the most appropriate
The ethics committee that needs to approve research study is Auckland
University ofTechnology Ethics Committee (AUTEC).This ensures study
respects the three principles of theTreaty of Waitangi, as it protects the
participants’ rights and ensures nothing has been left out of the research
proposal at the negligence of the organisation or researcher involved (Auckland
University ofTechnology, 2010; Australian Evaluation Society, 2000; Moon,
Participating in the research study is voluntary.They are allowed to withdraw
their consent and opt out of the research at any time. Informed consent must
declare any risk of harm, such as emotional, psychological or physical that the
participants may be subjected to. It also will declare what the intention of the
research study is, its benefits and factors such as time and cost the participant
may experience. Informed consent will also disclose the contact details of the
Confidentiality and anonymity must be maintained throughout the research
study.This means information gained from the participants for the purposes of
the research study is not disclosed, assuring their privacy is maintained at all
times (Auckland University ofTechnology, 2010).
All ethnicities are eligible to participate in the study.
New Zealand studies must comply with the three principles of theTreaty of Waitangi
Partnership is represented by the researcher and the participants working together to
achieve a positive educational outcome regarding health. It is about mutual respect,
making sure all participants are treated equally, spoken to with respect and understood for
any cultural beliefs they have. For example, an important cultural belief is that the head is
tapu (sacred) which may be a reason Maori are not having amalgam fillings. Informed
consent is of the highest importance to maintaining partnership (Moon, 2008).
Participation is about acknowledging the barriers participants may face. Maori may have
limited English which would prevent them from understanding and discussing the
amalgam topic therefore an interpreter will be arranged for these participants. Another
barrier is transportation, as some participants may not be able to attend due to being of
low socio-economic status therefore car-pooling can be arranged for these participants
Protection is about making sure the participant’s time is not wasted. Therefore the focus
groups will be arranged with the participants at a convenient time and will be allocated a
period of time such as one hour.The participants confidentially will be maintained
throughout the study (Moon, 2008).
Dental amalgam, consists of 50% mercury (Ferracane, 2009).
Alternatives such as, composite or Glass Ionomer Cement (GIC) have been developed for
cosmetic reasons and they do not contain mercury (Larkin, 2002).
Amalgam is cost effective, strong, durable, easy to use and can withstand heavy chewing.
In 1990, approximately 200 million amalgam restorations were placed, proving the
material is widely used and safe (Green, 2004).
Millions of patients have been treated with no adverse health effects reported, although
there were a few rare cases of patients who have a mercury allergy (Colgate, 2010).
The New Zealand Ministry of Health (MOH), Medsafe, British Dental Association, United
State Public Health Service, Federation Dentaire Internationale (FDI) World Dental
Federation and World Health Organisations (WHO) all agree and state that amalgam is
safe to use (Colgate, 2010; MOH, 2008).
Individuals with amalgam restorations absorbs minuscule amounts of
mercury vapour, far below the level that exerts any adverse health effect.
- Participants did not have significant mercury levels as they had neither, a
higher estimated daily uptake of inhaled mercury vapour, and did not have
a higher mercury concentration in their blood or urine in comparison
There is no significant link between mercury levels in the blood and the
amount of amalgam restorations in patients with reported symptoms (Bailer
et al, 2001).
Some studies relate problems patients attribute to amalgam restorations
being psycohosomatic in nature and patients have worsened their beliefs
by receiving incorrect information from the media (Quackwatch, 2006).
A study found an increase in blood mercury levels (Abraham,
Svare, & Frank, 1984).
Another study (Damian, Michael, Derek, & Boyd, 2006) found
that patients that removed their amalgam restorations
experienced reduced symptoms such as memory loss,
depression and fatigue, which they claimed were associated
with the mercury content.
The FDA is using scientific literature to investigate claims that
amalgam adversely affects the health of pregnant women
and of younger children (MOH, 2008).
While New Zealand supports the use of amalgam, countries
like Austria, Canada, Germany and Sweden have restrictions
on the use of amalgam due to wider environmental effects of
mercury and low mercury uptake (Medsafe, 1999).
Every time restorations are re-done the size of the cavity is
increased and more sound tooth structure, which is free from decay,
is destroyed (Larkin, 2002). Therefore, the MOH does not
recommend amalgam removal or replacement, without clinical
indication as it can’t be justified on present clinic and scientific
evidence. The exception is the patient who has an allergy or
hypersensitivity reaction to amalgam (Medsafe, 1999).
Research reveals that mercury levels have been shown to be
minuscule. Therefore, if there has been almost no adverse health
effects related to the mercury in amalgam (aside from mercury
allergy) and it is classed as safe to use, then why are patients
choosing to use alternative restorative materials such as
Therefore it is worth enquiring the patients’ opinions on the health
effects of mercury in amalgam to address this gap.
Abraham, J. E., Svare, C.W., & Frank, C.W. (1984).The effect of
dental amalgam restorations on blood mercury levels. Journal of
Dental Research, 63(1), 71-73. doi:10.1177/00220345840630011801
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