Genes encoding resistance to mercury and to antibiotics are often carried on the same mobile genetic element and so it is possible that mercury-containing dental materials may select for bacteria resistant to mercury and to antibiotics. The main aim of this study was to determine whether the prevalence of Hg-resistant oral bacteria was greater in children with mercury amalgam fillings than in those without. A secondary aim was to determine whether the Hg-resistant isolates were also antibiotic resistant. Bacteria in dental plaque and saliva from 41 children with amalgam fillings and 42 children without such fillings were screened for mercury resistance by cultivation on a HgCl(2)-containing medium. Surviving organisms were identified and their susceptibility to mercury and to several antibiotics was determined. Seventy-eight per cent and 74% of children in the amalgam group and amalgam-free group, respectively, harboured Hg-resistant bacteria; this difference was not statistically significant. Nor was there any significant difference between the groups in terms of the proportions of Hg-resistant bacteria in the oral microflora of the children. Of Hg-resistant bacteria, 88% and 92% from the amalgam group and the amalgam-free group, respectively, were streptococci; 41% and 33% were resistant to at least one antibiotic, most frequently tetracycline. The results of this study show that there was no significant difference between children with amalgam fillings and those without such fillings with regard to the prevalence, or the proportion, of Hg-resistant bacteria in their oral microflora. The study also found that Hg-resistant bacteria were common in children regardless of whether or not they had amalgam fillings and that many of these organisms were also resistant to antibiotics.