Tag Archives: dental amalgam

Amalgams & Mercury Damage

amalgamsBefore yesterday was through, the ADA was in full spin mode over Thursday’s Dr. Oz Show: “Are Your Silver Fillings Making You Sick?” Apparently oblivious to irony, they reiterated their usual claim that there’s “no sound science” supporting mercury amalgam’s well-documented health risks – and then insisted on its safety.

As if saying something often and loudly and forcefully enough could somehow make it true.

It’s like when amalgam’s defenders say that the mercury it contains isn’t the dangerous kind – and is even a little magical:

Mercury is an important component in the fillings because it effectively binds the other metals together, forming a strong bond that contributes to the filling’s durability. It is important to note that there are several kinds of mercury. The mercury found in water that can build up in fish and lead to health problems if you ingest too much is not the same type of mercury used in amalgam. The mercury in amalgam is contained, or sequestered, within the filling.

Of course, even the ADA agrees that mercury vapor is released during chewing or grinding. A 2009 paper in Chemical Research in Toxicology estimated that older fillings may have lost up to 95% of their original mercury content. That mercury doesn’t just disappear, of course. The body’s self-regulating mechanisms clear as much of it as it possibly can. That which isn’t excreted is stored, typically gravitating toward fatty tissues such as the liver and brain.

More, although the mercury in amalgam may start out in elemental form, it doesn’t stay that way. As Dr. Huggins notes in It’s All in Your Head, mercury released from amalgams fillings can become methylated.

Mercury is highly reactive chemically. It likes to combine with biological tissue. In the mouth, mercury has the ability to combine with a carbon-hydrogen compound called a methyl group. When mercury combines with methyl groups it is called methyl mercury.

Methylation actually begins in the mouth , due to the action of oral bacteria, but it can occur elsewhere (also). And “although the amounts found are small,” wrote researchers in the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Science, “any measurable amount of methyl mercury” only adds to a body’s total toxic burden.

Methylmercury is a bioaccumulative toxin. That’s why mercury in fish – especially fatty fish – is such a concern. When mercury contaminates water, it gets methylated by bacteria. Fish exposed to this methylmercury accumulate it in their bodies. When we eat them, we get a dose of the stuff, too.

And there is no question about it: the stuff is highly toxic. It’s main damage is neurological, particularly during the developmental period before birth and into a child’s early years of life.

Of course, it has other effects, as well – including a somewhat surprising one suggested by a recent study. Methylmercury exposure in young adulthood appears to raise the risk of developing diabetes later in life.

The study, published last month in Diabetes Care, analyzed data from nearly 4000 adults between the ages of 20 and 32. According to lead author Ka He of Indiana University,

Our results are consistent with findings from laboratory studies and provide longitudinal human data, suggesting that people with high mercury exposure in young adulthood may have elevated risk of diabetes later in life.

Why? It may be related, at least partly, to pancreatic beta cell dysfunction. These cells have been shown to play a major role in type 2 diabetes.

The abstract of the Diabetes Care study is available here.

We know that our current diabetes epidemic, like its companion obesity epidemic, has many causes. Further study is needed to know if we need to add yet another cause to that list.

Image by Enzo Carretta, via Wikimedia Commons

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Like Mercury, BPA Deemed Warning-Worthy

There was good news from Geneva recently: 140 countries have now agreed to the global mercury treaty, several years in the making. Once ratified by 50 nations, it will become legally-binding. Its main goal is to reduce mercury emissions, and to that end, it includes steps toward a phase-out of dental amalgam.

Similarly good news came from Sacramento this week: the state Environmental Protection Agency, Cal/EPA, announced their intent to declare BPA a reproductive hazard. This means it would become subject to Prop. 65 requirements – the same rules that require dental offices to display warnings about the presence of mercury in amalgam.

prop65_warnPublic comments will be accepted for the usual 30 days before BPA can be officially added to the Prop. 65 list. (Want to submit your own? Details here.)

No, it’s not a ban, but it is a step in the right direction – just as the mercury treaty is a step in the right direction. Yes, the treaty could be stronger. Still, it’s the broadest acknowledgement yet of the hazards posed by “silver” fillings and does require some action.

Of course, many dentists, biological and conventional alike, have already stopped filling teeth with amalgam, opting for composite instead – the stuff used for sealants and “white” or “tooth-colored” fillings. Unfortunately, some brands of composite contain BPA. So now you sometimes hear mercury’s defenders say that since BPA is a toxin, too, what does it matter? Why not just keep placing amalgam?

Yes, BPA is a toxin – a known endocrine disruptor that’s been linked to conditions like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and erectile dysfunction. Its ability to alter reproductive hormones endangers fetuses and infants, and a leading cause of the recent spike in cases of early onset puberty, especially for girls.

But with respect to dental products, there’s a catch. In the words of my colleague Dr. Gary Verigin,

…while all amalgam fillings contain mercury, not all composites contain BPA

Indeed, we – and you – have options. The new generation nontoxic alternatives, as we mentioned before, are

strong and durable, less prone to fail and certainly more aesthetic. Placing composite is also a less invasive procedure than placing amalgam, letting you retain more natural tooth structure.

More natural structure means a stronger tooth, as well.

We also have the help of compatibility testing. Through blood serum, electrodermal screening and other methods, we can identify materials best suited for any particular patient – meaning, also, the healthiest.

Always, the health of the patient comes first.

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Effective Mercury Replacement Involves More Than Just Teeth

Through the past decade, Swedish residents whose ill health appears to stem from amalgam fillings have been able to ask their local county council for help in paying to have them replaced. But with costs an ongoing concern even in nations with universal healthcare coverage, the question gets raised: Does amalgam replacement help?

This was the focus of a study published earlier this month in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

The aim of the study was to investigate symptoms, perceived health changes over time and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in this population, comprising subjects with subjective health impairment, allegedly because of dental materials. A further aim was to compare their HRQoL with that of the general population.

The most common health complaints attributed to amalgams were musculoskeletal pain (67.5%), sleep disturbance (60.0%) and fatigue (58.6%). Their quality of life scores were also “significantly lower” than that of the general population.

And the result of having their amalgams out?

Not much improvement at all.

Subjects who had undergone subsidized dental restoration replacement reported persistent subjective symptoms and low HRQoL. The results indicate that replacement of restorative materials alone is insufficient to achieve improved health in patients with symptoms allegedly attributable to dental restorations. [emphasis added]

That last sentence is vital for understanding what’s going on.

Simply put: If you are suffering symptoms of mercury toxicity or have been diagnosed with a chronic illness fueled by mercury, simply having them replaced is not enough. For one, if they’re not removed safely, the result can be a worsening of illness. It’s why we make a distinction between “mercury-free” and “mercury-safe” dentistry. The IAOMT guidelines for safe mercury removal explain exactly what the latter involves.

But more, you also must deal with all the mercury that’s built up and been stored in the various tissues of the body. A healthy body has mechanisms for clearing mercury and other heavy metals and toxins; in illness, those systems are compromised. So first, the body must be prepared to heal by opening the channels of elimination; otherwise, those stored metals will stay put. Likewise, post-treatment detox supports the clearing of mercury and other toxins.

Then, we see results more like those published last year in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation: significant reductions in health complaints. They’re the kind of results we’ve seen in our practice for years.

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7 Must-See Videos on Mercury “Silver” Amalgam Fillings

Again this year, Dr. Mercola and Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice have teamed up to promote Mercury-Free Dentistry Week – an event designed to raise awareness of the toxic burden of so-called “silver” amalgam fillings on patients, dental personnel and our planet. As part of the event, Mercola.com has been adding some great new material to their already excellent mercury section. I encourage you to check it out – and to share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites you regularly use.

For the sad truth is that even today, less than 25% of consumers realize that “silver” fillings are mercury fillings. But the more who do – and understand their impact on health – the more momentum we can give to all efforts in the fight for mercury-free dentistry.

You may also want to share some or all of the 7 videos I’ve embedded below. Some I’ve featured here before. Many are now standard sources of info on the amalgam problem.

Quecksilber: The Strange Story of Dental Amalgam

 

An Open Letter to Dental Deans & Professors

 

Smoking Teeth = Poison Gas

 

How Mercury Causes Brain Damage

 

Dental Amalgams Leach Mercury Vapor into Your Brain

 

Mercury: The Poison in Your Teeth

 

Safer Amalgam Removal

 

For more ways you can help get mercury out of dentistry, visit the “Take Action” page of Consumers for Dental Choice.

Resources for finding a mercury-free, mercury-safe dentist in your area:

Previously

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What a Phase-Out of Mercury Amalgam Looks Like

More than 20 years ago, Norway began to actively phase out the use of dental amalgam. In 2008, it banned mercury outright, with limited exemptions for dental use for another two years. Since the end of 2010, mercury-free dentistry has been the norm.

And how has it gone?

That’s the subject of a report commissioned by the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency, issued earlier this year. It reviews “the experiences from the phase-out of the use of dental amalgam as tooth filling material in Norway, and make[s] an assessment of the costs to the society from the actions taken to limit the release of mercury.” And its conclusions?

  1. Use and release of mercury are substantially reduced.
  2. Experiences with the alternatives to dental amalgam are generally positive.
  3. Abatement “end-of-pipe” costs lower than dental amalgam phase-out costs.

That is, they found it does cost more to phase-out mercury than merely to contain emissions. But this, the report urges, is no deal-breaker. Why not? Because the long-term goal is to eliminate mercury pollution. As less amalgam is used and more replaced with nontoxic materials, those “end-pipe” costs will gradually dwindle to zero. The phase-out costs are thus an investment.

You can read the Executive Summary at – and download the entire report from – MercuryExposure.info.

And if you’re not familiar with the site, it’s definitely one worth bookmarking. Its admins are amassing a fine library of mercury and amalgam research done over the years. A sample of references you may find worthwhile:

Happy exploring!

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Mercury Amalgam Studies Were “Crime Against Humanity,” Says DAMS

I’d planned on picking up where I left off last week, but sometimes news gets in the way. And here’s some stunning news DAMS sent out a few days ago:

Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS), a U.S.-based consumer organization, has co-filed a “Crime against Humanity” complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague against those involved in an $11 million experiment conducted on approximately 1,000 children. The study of health harm from amalgam/mercury dental fillings, known as the “Children’s Amalgam Trial” (CAT), was funded by the U.S. government’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).

International advocate Anita Tibau and documentary filmmaker Kelly Gallagher recently traveled to Lisbon to raise public awareness about the unethical research associated with silver/amalgam fillings, which contain 50% toxic mercury. The two Americans provided critical documents and film footage that became part of a shocking expose aired on Portuguese television last week, which prompted former victims of the CAT experiments to question the indignities and harm they incurred. The report by journalist Rita Maraffa Carvalho revealed many of the atrocities of CAT included in the complaint made to the ICC, which was co-signed by Tibau and Gallagher on behalf of the organization Mouth of Hope.

The CAT mercury experiments were conducted on children aged 8-10 from low-income families in New England and the Casa Pia orphanage in Lisbon between 1997-2005. The research was authorized by NIDCR’s project administrator Norman Braveman, and the Portuguese segment was managed by Timothy DeRouen, PhD, at the University of Washington.

The entire CAT study was funded by U.S. taxpayers’ dollars, and even when personnel at Casa Pia were convicted of running a pedophile ring abusing the children in 2002, the study continued. Also during the course of the CAT experiments, concerns were never addressed about misleading consent forms and previously published scientific studies indicating that exposure from mercury fillings was a well-known threat to human health.

The late Sandra Duffy, an Oregon attorney, noted in 2004 that the U.S. consent forms did “not disclose how much mercury exposure or absorption occurs from the fillings,” and the Portuguese consent forms, one hundred of which were signed by the same doctor for the orphans, did not even disclose that the fillings contained mercury.

Additionally, Boyd Haley, PhD, chairman of IAOMT’s Scientific Advisory Board and Professor Emeritus at the University of Kentucky, found major scientific flaws in the CAT study design and conclusions.

Dr. Olympio Pinto, a dental expert from Brazil interviewed for the Portuguese expose, warned of dental mercury: “The scientific evidence in over 30,000 papers is clear…and we do not need any further findings, needing to submit even animals, let alone humans, to experiments we can anticipate the results of, based on pure science.”

Leo Cashman of DAMS, a non-profit that co-submitted the complaint, agreed: “We want justice for the children subjected to corrupt experimentation and an end to the use of toxic mercury fillings.”

IAOMT member David Kennedy, DDS, added: “At a 2010 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dental products hearing, Dr. Suresh Kotagal, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician, announced, ‘…there really is perhaps no place for mercury in children,’ but because the ill-conceived CAT studies are often cited by the American Dental Association and other groups, mercury fillings are still abused globally. Some countries have banned them entirely, and all manufacturers recommend against their use for pregnant women and children. Obviously, toxic substances don’t belong in the mouths of children or any other patients.”

Indeed.

More Information

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Health & Illness: More Than “If A and if B, then C”

One of this blog’s most popular posts is an article I originally wrote for my office website, “Why Doesn’t Everyone with Mercury Fillings Get Sick?”. The short answer – which I also discuss in the video “Silver Fillings, Toxic Teeth” – is that how a person fares with amalgams

tells us nothing about the fillings and everything about that individual’s constitution, immune response and ability to excrete toxins. Consider: if you have a healthy, robust immune system, you can be exposed to many pathogens without getting sick. It’s why not everyone gets the flu each year – or gets the same kind. Likewise, a person in good health and with few other risk factors may be able to bear the burden of mercury…for a time. But if they become ill or take up bad habits (e.g., eating junk food, taking drugs, smoking), their body becomes less and less able to rid itself of the mercury. That’s when you begin to see symptoms of Dental Amalgam Syndrome.

And the same can be said for most any kind of dental toxicity issue.

Several weeks ago, a reader expressed fear and concern in comments on an earlier post about root canals:

I am currently pregnant and have had to get 4 root canals during this pregnancy. I now have 6 total, at the age of 30. After doing research, I am now extremely scared and depressed. I would ideally like to have all of my root canals extracted, but am not sure that I can afford ths, after paying for the root canals themselves. Am I now destined for heart disease and/or cancer?

Strictly speaking, no one is destined for any disease. Yes, we may be genetically predisposed to certain illnesses or conditions. We may be at higher or lower risk due to factors such as lifestyle choices (e.g., diet, drug use) or environmental exposures. We may be constitutionally better or worse at eliminating the various toxins we’re exposed to.

Complex, chronic, multifactorial conditions such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders and “enigmatic” illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivities arise from a dynamic of forces and factors that we’re still just beginning to really grasp. But we do know that the body is a self-regulating organism whose health and healing can be supported through proper detoxification, nutrition and an active, balanced lifestyle. While living healthy is likewise no guarantee that a person will never get sick – we’ve all heard about people who lived as healthfully as possible yet still died young – it’s the best insurance policy we have.

The conventional view of medicine most of us grow up with is, to be blunt, pretty simplistic: For every illness, there’s a single cause; stopping symptoms is the same thing as curing disease. Our socialization into this model is so strong that even when we begin to understand its limitations and the benefits of a holistic, biological approach to health and well-being, we may still find our thinking stuck in its habitual ways. Here, fear becomes easy. We may assume that because we’re sick and have amalgam fillings and mercury is toxic, our illness must be due to the fillings. (Actually, only thorough, proper testing and evaluation can tell us that.) Or we may worry that the presence of root canal teeth is a one-way ticket to cancer.

Yes, there are strong, demonstrated links between health problems and dental foci – and a research record of more than 100 years – but there are no absolutes. There are too many variables.

Let’s go back to an example I used in passing in the mercury article we started with today: the flu. Why doesn’t everyone exposed to the virus get the flu – and why do some who “protect” themselves via vaccination get sick anyway? Because, as authors of a study published last year in PLoS Genetics put it, “Exposure to influenza viruses is necessary, but not sufficient, for healthy human hosts to develop symptomatic illness.” As MSNBC reported,

“Many people might conclude that if you are exposed to a virus and you don’t get sick, it’s because the virus didn’t stick or it was so weak, it just passed right through your system and your system didn’t notice. That’s not a correct notion,” says Alfred Hero, professor at the University of Michigan College of Engineering and author of the study….

He continues, “There is an active immune response which accounts for the resistance of certain people getting sick, and that response is just as active as the response we all know and hate, which is being sick with the sniffles, fever, coughing and sneezing. It’s just that the responses are different.”

And this is the case with all manner of exposures, whether to pathogenic microbes or other toxins: There’s always a response, but that response varies according to the individual. Is their immune system robust? Are they good excretors of mercury and other heavy metals? Do they practice good health habits to keep the body’s self-regulatory mechanisms in good working order?

This is why it’s so vital to look at each person’s situation and tailor treatment to their unique dynamic of factors – likewise, to always keep the big picture in mind: How does the dental situation fit in with and relate to the other health factors in a person’s life? Healing depends on a holistic, individualized approach.

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