Exposure to mercury vapor and impact on health in the dental profession in Sweden

J Dent Res. 1997 Jul;76(7):1397-404. doi: 10.1177/00220345970760071001.


Possible adverse effects of mercury exposure in dentistry have been discussed in several studies. The objective of the present study was to carry out detailed measurements of mercury exposure in the dental profession in Sweden, and to search for adverse health effects from such exposure. We examined 22 dentists and 22 dental nurses, working in teams, at six Swedish dental clinics. Measurements of air mercury, performed with personal, active air samplers, showed a median air Hg of 1.8 micrograms/m3 for the dentists, and 2.1 micrograms/m3 for the dental nurses. Spot measurements with a direct reading instrument displayed temporarily elevated air Hg, especially during the preparation and application of amalgam. The average concentration of mercury in whole blood (B-Hg) was 18 nmol/L, in plasma (P-Hg) 5.1 nmol/L, and in urine (U-Hg) 3.0 nmol/mmol creatinine. Possible effects on the central nervous system (CNS) were registered with three questionnaires: Q16, Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI), and the Profile of Mood Scales (POMS). In the Q16, the number of symptoms was statistically significantly higher in the dentistry group compared with an age- and gender-matched control group (n = 44). The urinary excretion of albumin and urinary activity of the tubular enzyme N-acetyl-beta-glucose-aminidase (NAG) did not differ between the two groups. The results confirm that exposure to mercury in the dental profession in Sweden is low. The air Hg levels were mainly influenced by the method of amalgam preparation and inserting, and by the method of air evacuation during drilling and polishing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis
  • Dental Amalgam / adverse effects
  • Dental Amalgam / analysis
  • Dental Assistants* / psychology
  • Dental Assistants* / statistics & numerical data
  • Dentists* / psychology
  • Dentists* / statistics & numerical data
  • Dentists, Women* / psychology
  • Dentists, Women* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mercury / adverse effects*
  • Mercury / analysis
  • Mercury / pharmacokinetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Sweden
  • Volatilization


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Dental Amalgam
  • Mercury