The release of mercury from four freshly-triturated amalgams into air, argon, and moist air environments was quantitated at three different temperatures. Although a measurable amount of mercury was released from dental amalgam, the evaporation rate was immediately reduced by several phenomena, the most important being the formation of an oxide film on the surface. This hypothesis was supported by the fact that release rates were elevated in an inert argon environment, but declined dramatically once air was introduced and oxidation could occur. The further amalgamation of “free” mercury, as well as the presence of water vapor, also contributed to the reduced release rates observed during aging. Mercury release was reduced to a negligible level within three to four hours after trituration. Only one of the amalgams, Tytin, demonstrated a thermal dependence for mercury release in air. The results of this study suggest that the exposure to mercury vapor from a freshly placed amalgam restoration would be negligible in consideration of the normal estimated daily intake from all other sources.
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