Effect of free mercury on the strengths of dental amalgams

T. Okabe, J. Staman, J. Ferracane, R. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A previous study of several different Ag-Sn, Ag-Cu, and Ag-Sn-Cu alloys revealed that some of these alloys were susceptible to mercury embrittlement. The present study was undertaken to determine the extent to which embrittlement of alloy particles in amalgam affects the strength of the material. Specimens of low copper amalgam (O), high copper admixed amalgam (D), and high copper single composition amalgams (S and T) were condensed into 2 mm×4 mm×15 mm molds using a pressure of 14 MPa. After aging the specimens for 7 days at 37°C, mercury was coated on each specimen either by electro-plating mercury or by immersion in mercury. In each method, mercury was applied for 15 s or 1 min. At 30 s after coating, each specimen was placed in a 3-point fracture fixture and immediately loaded at 0.25 and 2.54 mm/min until fracture occurred. As controls, specimens of each amalgam without mercury coating were also tested. Ten specimens per experimental condition were tested. Fractured surfaces were examined using a scanning electron microscope. Strength reductions as high as 60% for O amalgam, 44% for D amalgam, and 31% for T amalgam were found. Two observations suggest that embrittlement of unconsumed alloy particles is primarily responsible for the strength reduction: 1) the amalgams showing susceptibility to mercury embrittlement in the present study contain alloy particles of alloys that were shown to be susceptible to embrittlement in an earlier study, and 2) the amalgam S, which showed the least susceptibility to mercury embrittlement, contains unconsumed alloy particles of an alloy that showed no significant embrittlement in the earlier study. Experimental evidence supports the hypothesis that free mercury released during corrosion or aging of amalgam restorations can contribute to the weakening of these restorations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-184
Number of pages5
JournalDental Materials
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1985
Externally publishedYes


  • dental amalgam
  • mercury
  • mercury embrittlement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Dentistry(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials


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