Tag Archives: mercury

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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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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Fluoride & Mercury (Again)

Two news items this week on a couple of dental issues familiar to you regular readers:

More Evidence of Neurodevelopmental
Harm from Fluoride

Last year, some important new research showed that prolonged exposure to fluoride can harm children’s developing brains and nervous systems. A new study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives – a journal of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – supports these earlier findings.

The research involved “a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to investigate the effects of increased fluoride exposure and delayed neurobehavioral development.” Through their analysis of 27 such studies, the authors found that “children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low fluoride areas.” According to the press release from the Fluoride Action Network,

Water was the only fluoride source in the studies reviewed and was based on high water fluoride levels. However, they point out research by Ding (2011) suggested that low water fluoride levels had significant negative associations with children’s intelligence.

Choi et al. write, “Although fluoride may cause neurotoxicity in animal models and acute fluoride poisoning causes neurotoxicity in adults, very little is known of its effects on children’s neurodevelopment.” They recommend more brain/fluoride research on children and at individual-level doses.

“It’s senseless to keep subjecting our children to this ongoing fluoridation experiment to satisfy the political agenda of special-interest groups,” says attorney Paul Beeber, NYSCOF President. “Even if fluoridation reduced cavities, is tooth health more important than brain health? It’s time to put politics aside and stop artificial fluoridation everywhere,” says Beeber.

* * *

Choi’s team writes, “Fluoride readily crosses the placenta. Fluoride exposure to the developing brain, which is much more susceptible to injury caused by toxicants than is the mature brain, may possibly lead to damage of a permanent nature.”

You can access the study here.

European Phase-Out of Mercury by 2018?

That’s the recommendation of a new European Commission report, and considering that 1/3 of EU member states have already phased out, significantly reduced or strengthened restrictions on amalgam use, it seems the inevitable next step forward.

Interestingly, the recommendation isn’t motivated by the evidence of amalgam’s harm to human health. In fact, the Commission accepts the line that there is “no scientific consensus” about amalgam; thus, their policy is concerned with reduction of mercury in the environment, much of which comes from mercury’s use in dentistry. (Yes, there is lack of “consensus” insofar as the dental establishment dismisses the science showing harm, thereby creating a “controversy.”)

According to Dr. Bicuspid, the report noted that

dental amalgam is one of the main remaining uses of mercury in the EU…. In 2007, dental amalgam was the second largest mercury use in the EU after chlor-alkali production.

Approximately 45 tons of mercury from EU dental practices end up in chairside effluents each year, only a part of which is captured and treated as hazardous waste in compliance with EU legislation, according to BIOS [Bio Intelligence Service, author of the report].

“Estimates developed in this study suggest that dental amalgam is a significant contributor to overall EU environmental emissions of mercury from human activities,” they wrote.

The article also mentions some of the reasons why more countries have yet to ban amalgam, from a lack of patient education to the need for many dentists to get more training in placing composites; from the higher short term cost of composite fillings to some dentists’ belief in the mechanical superiority of of mercury amalgam. And all these are, in fact, legitimate concerns that will need to be addressed. Fortunately, there’s the good model of Norway, which we recently told your about, as well as useful research showing that amalgam is the more expensive material in the long run.

You can read more about the proposed phase-out here.

Images by amadachong & Mrs. Pugliano, via Flickr

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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!

Image by Froskeland, via Flickr

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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.

Image by Lumiago, via Flickr

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Making Sense of Mercury

…with a much needed dose of humor, to boot!

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