Factors influencing mercury evaporation from dental amalgam fillings were studied in 11 volunteers. Air was drawn from the oral cavity for 1 min and continuously analyzed with a mercury detector. In six volunteers the median unstimulated evaporation rate was 0.1 ng Hg/s, range 0.09-1.3 ng Hg/s. After chewing gum for 5 min the highest evaporation rate was 2.7 ng Hg/s. Chewing paraffin wax gave only a small increase in evaporation rate. Changes in airflow rates between 1.5 and 2.5 1/min during the 1 min sampling did not change the amount of mercury drawn from the oral cavity. Sampling with different mouthpieces and closed mouth was compared to open mouth sampling with a thin plastic tube. It was found that the latter method could result in lower values for some volunteers due to simultaneous mouth breathing. After placing individual plastic teeth covers in the mouth, the intraoral evaporation of mercury decreased immediately by 89-100% of previous levels. This technique could be used to detect mercury evaporation from separate amalgam fillings or to reduce the intraoral mercury vapor concentration. Rinsing the mouth with heated water for 1 min increased the mean evaporation rate by a factor of 1.7 when the water temperature increased from 35 degrees C to 45 degrees C.