Physical and mental problems attributed to dental amalgam fillings: a descriptive study of 99 self-referred patients compared with 272 controls

Psychosom Med. Jan-Feb 1997;59(1):32-41. doi: 10.1097/00006842-199701000-00005.

Abstract

Objective: The physical and mental symptomatology of 99 self-referred patients complaining of multiple somatic and mental symptoms attributed to dental amalgam fillings were compared with patients with known chronic medical disorders seen in alternative (N = 93) and ordinary (N = 99) medical family practices and patients with dental amalgam fillings (N = 80) seen in an ordinary dental practice.

Method: The assessments included written self-reports, a 131-item somatic symptom checklist; Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, the General Health Questionnaire, and Toronto Alexithymia Scale.

Results: The dental amalgam sample reported significantly more physical symptoms from all body regions. Self-reports suggested that 62% suffered from a chronic anxiety disorder (generalized anxiety disorder or panic). Forty-seven percent suffered from a major depression compared with 14% in the two clinical-comparison samples and none in the dental control sample. Symptoms suggesting somatization disorder were found in 29% of the dental amalgam sample compared with only one subject in the 272 comparison subjects. One third of the dental amalgam patients reported symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome compared with none in the dental control sample and only 2 and 6%, respectively, in the two clinical comparison samples. The dental amalgam group reported higher mean neuroticism and lower lie scores than the comparison groups.

Conclusion: Self-referred patients with health complaints attributed to dental amalgam are a heterogeneous group of patients who suffer multiple symptoms and frequently have mental disorders. There is a striking similarity with the multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Dental Amalgam / adverse effects*
  • Dental Restoration, Permanent / adverse effects*
  • Dental Restoration, Permanent / psychology*
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality
  • Prevalence
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sick Role*
  • Somatoform Disorders / complications

Substances

  • Dental Amalgam