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Mercury in Dentistry: The Facts (AGD 130)

Presenter: Jennifer K. Blake, CDA Emeritus, EFDA, MADAA; Contributing Author: Natalie Kaweckyj, LDA, RF, CDA, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, BA


In the dental workplace mercury is encountered in amalgam restorative material. Although mercury is a naturally occurring substance, it is a toxic substance and can cause harmful effects at unsafe levels. The proper handling of mercury in the dental office is therefore an important occupational safety issue for the dental team. There has been considerable debate over the use of mercury as a component in dental amalgam restorations. Numerous governmental and private studies continue to show amalgam, when properly handled, to be safe to both the patient and dental team. Most of this debate centers on concerns of safety in the use of the material as it pertains to the patient. This course addresses not only patient and environmental safety, but also the occupational safety issues for the dental team.

The intent of this course is to provide the dental professional with currently available information about mercury hygiene. Those aspects beyond the scope of this course can be found in the references cited and in the “Suggested Readings.”


Jennifer K. Blake, CDA Emeritus, EFDA, MDAA graduated from Indiana University School of Dentistry’s Dental Assisting Program in Fort Wayne, Indiana and received her certificate in expanded functions from Indiana University School of Dentistry in Indianapolis.

Her career started as a chairside assistant. After receiving her expanded functions training, Mrs. Blake became a faculty member at the Indiana University School of Dentistry TEAM Clinic working with senior dental students teaching them how to work with expanded assistants in a private practice simulated environment. Jen went on to become an instructor at Professional Careers Institute, an ADA Accredited Dental Assisting Program in Indianapolis, Indiana, and later served as their Program Administrator and Placement Counselor. She is also a past Editorial Director for The Dental Assistant Journal.

A member of the American Dental Assistants Association since she was a student, Jen has served all positions in the Indianapolis Dental Assistants Society, Indiana Dental Assistants Association, Sixth District Trustee, Vice President and President-elect to the American Dental Assistants Association and served as ADAA President from 1997-1998. She is also a past member of the Indiana State Department of Health Radiological Technology Certification Committee.

Jen is certified by the Dental Assisting National Board with emeritus status, licensed in Indiana in limited dental radiography, holds certificates in Coronal Polishing and Caries Prevention Procedures from Indiana University School of Dentistry Continuing Education, and is a Master of the American Dental Assistants Association.

Contributing author: Natalie Kaweckyj, LDA, RF, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, BA
Natalie Kaweckyj is a Licensed Dental Assistant with restorative functions at Children’s Dental Services in Minneapolis where she spends the majority of her time in hospital setting providing care under general anesthesia. The challenges of public health keep Natalie continually looking for solutions. She has worked academically, administratively and clinically, as well as legislatively in the 28 years as a dental assistant. As a DANB certificant, Natalie holds all 6 of DANB’s credentials (the only one world-wide) as well as a BA in Biology and Psychology from Metropolitan State University.

Natalie served two terms as President of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) in 2017-2018 and 2010-2011, remains active on several councils, and served as a President of the Professional Dental Assistants Education Foundation (PDAEF). She served as a three-term president for the Minnesota Dental Assistants Association (MNDAA) and remains as the state business secretary. Natalie has been recognized with several ADAA awards, was one of the first ADAA Fellows in 1999 and became the first ADAA Master in 2004. She has published numerous continuing education courses, over 500 articles, and lectures nationally and internationally on a variety of dental subjects.
Organized dentistry gave Natalie the insight early on that you can make a difference as a dental professional, and she was instrumental in seeing licensure for dental assistants come to fruition in Minnesota in 2009 as well as several expanded functions throughout the years. Natalie enjoys giving back to the community and does so with her volunteer writing contributions for a number of different organizations as well as her time with the ADAA and the Dental Peeps Network as a Senior Moderator.


Upon completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Explain the current position of dental organizations and governmental agencies on dental amalgam.
• List several sources of mercury contamination.
• Identify some of the factors that affect the concentration of mercury vapor in the air.
• Distinguish between mercurial poisoning and mercurial hypersensitivity.
• Name several symptoms of mercury toxicity.
• Summarize the recommendations for proper mercury hygiene.
• Describe the function of amalgam separators.
• Clarify the facts of dental amalgam use.
• Discuss the pros and cons of dental amalgam restorations with co-workers and patients.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry. Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of this course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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