Mercury in Dental Fillings
Q: Is mercury in dental fillings really a concern or is it hype as suggested in Quack watch? Is harmful mercury released in the removal process? Should I be concerned now?
Before we dive into this hot bed of heavy metals, I want to address the great source of most of our research these days, the Internet. While there is plenty of information on the Internet, a savvy reader must be able to discern the fact from fiction. The website Quack watch will debunk pretty much anything that is not conventional medical dogma. Even if there are good quality studies suggesting an alternate view or a change to the conventional dogma, unless the FDA, or big pharma endorses the new protocol or procedure, quack watch will most likely debunk it as quackery. So, I don’t spend much of my time there.
Now on to the topic of discussion…
The subject of dental mercury is a heated topic and there are multiple sides to the story. My goal in answering this question is to have you reach your own conclusion by the time you get to the end.
The silver metal fillings dentists most commonly use are amalgamated metal that contains the toxic heavy metal mercury. Often the term mercury amalgam is used.
According to both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is a negligible risk to your health if you have mercury fillings. The FDA suggests that removing them, unless you have a severe allergy to mercury, is a dental health risk and completely unnecessary. However the flip side to this is that the FDA recently released this warning: Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems. Hmmm, now that’s interesting.
In other countries such as: Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Germany there are formal bans on the use of mercury fillings in pregnant women. The American Dental Association (ADA) maintains that amalgam fillings are safe, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared amalgam to be a hazardous material.
The silver amalgam fillings found in most mouths are approximately 50% mercury. A large filling may contain as much mercury as a thermometer. Mercury vaporizes easily at room temperature, and in this state, is odorless, colorless and tasteless. Inhaled mercury vapor is readily absorbed into the bloodstream. The two biggest exposures involve the placement of and the extraction of the mercury amalgams. The World Health Organization has concluded that dental fillings contribute more mercury to a person’s body than all other sources of mercury combined.
Several studies have found that chewing markedly increases the amount of mercury released from amalgam fillings into the mouth and that these mercury vapors easily find their way into the pituitary gland and the brain.
Common bacteria found in the mouth and intestines can convert mercury to methyl mercury, a compound that is 100 times more toxic than is elemental mercury. Methyl mercury passes both the blood-brain and placental barriers. This puts unborn children at risk for heavy metal exposure.
Not everyone is sensitive to mercury, which makes it more difficult for a positive or negative ruling on the topic. The systems most affected by mercury toxicity are the nervous system, immune system, and urinary system.
The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAMOT) have the following recommendations for safe removal and encourage patients to inquire about this prior to mercury amalgam removal:
*The dentist must utilize an efficient suction system in the oral cavity with a special tip or its equivalent to contain amalgam particles and mercury vapors. *The vacuum system must operate at maximum efficiency.
*Water must be applied to the filling during removal.
*The amalgam should be removed in large segments to minimize the generation of mercury vapor and amalgam particulate.
*The dentist, dental staff and patient must be provided with a mercury-free source of air.
NATUROPATHIC PERSPECTIVE ON TOTAL BODY BURDEN:
The environment is not as pristine as we think. Over a lifetime, toxic elements accumulate inside the human body in our fat and organs. They come in through the air, what we eat, what we put on our skin, what we drink, etc. Eventually, this increasing toxic burden begins to become more than our body can handle and we begin to experience symptoms.
Heavy metal exposure can trigger a variety of physical and cognitive disorders. The most pronounced include neurological dysfunction, and cognitive problems. Even at relatively low levels, toxic elements have the destructive capability to damage nerves and tissue. Strong clinical evidence points to their potential role in early neurodevelopment disorders, such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as well as in neurodegenerative conditions of aging such as Parkinson’s, MS, ALS, tremors and Alzheimer’s disease.
It is important to note that Heart disease and atherosclerosis are linked to total body burden of toxic metals. Other systems affected include urinary function, respiratory, immune, gastrointestinal, and increased cancer risk. It is common for most people over 40 to have a moderate heavy metal burden due to lifestyle and environmental factors of what they have been exposed to. Mercury amalgams only contribute to the overall exposure.
I typically run heavy metal tests on every patient with heart disease and neurological concerns. Eighty percent of all of these patients have a moderate to severe body burden of toxic metals of which mercury and lead generally top the charts. High levels of metals interfere with bodily function, are toxic to the system and decrease vitality leading to system demise. In some, this occurs faster than others. I have seen patients with mercury toxicity from eating too much tuna, salmon and sushi; I have seen patients with mercury toxicity with severe immune breakdown, advanced heart disease, loss of taste, smell, vertigo, and tremor.
Removing mercury amalgams is a big decision. Often the filling is old and in need of being replaced which makes the decision easier. If the filing is newer, removing it may cause unnecessary trauma to the tooth, and also expose you to mercury in the removal process. If you decide to keep the mercury amalgams, they will slowly release mercury every time you chew on something. These vapors will be inhaled and the mercury also absorbs into the surrounding tissues in your mouth.
Removing the fillings now or leaving them in until they are ready to be replaced is a personal health choice that is based on the current health status of the individual and necessitates careful consideration.