Tag Archives: mercury fillings

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.

Image by foshydog, 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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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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Making Sense of Mercury

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

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Raspberries, Piercings & Smoking – Oh, My!

So back to blogging, following up on a few older posts with more recent items I ran across during the hiatus…

Nontoxic Oral Cancer Treatments

We’ve looked at causes and early detection of oral cancer, but then what? Well, if a pair of recent studies holds up, we just might wind up treating precancerous lesions with raspberries.

“Part of the biggest clinical challenge,” says Dr. Susan Mallery in DrBicuspid’s report on her work, “is that we cannot currently identify which lesions will progress to oral cancer. Having nontoxic and effective treatment options available would be a great benefit to both patients and healthcare practitioners.”

In a 2010 study in Pharmaceutical Research, Dr. Mallery’s team found that applying a black raspberry gel directly to the lesions kept precancerous cells from becoming cancerous.

Based on the known mechanisms by which berry compounds function at the cellular levels, researchers speculate that the promising gel trial results reflect activation of two related pathways – apoptosis and terminal differentiation – in the premalignant cells. The ultimate benefit is that damaged cells don’t continue to divide and are therefore not retained.

A new study by the team, published in Molecular Pharmaceutics, showed similar efficacy of patch-delivered fenretinide, a synthetic vitamin A compound. The authors suggest that these “chemopreventives” could be used alone or in rotation, though the raspberry gel was enough for many.

“We’re getting a pretty good handle on what enzymes you need and how you metabolize the compounds, which will give a predictive indicator if you’re going to be a good responder to the raspberry gel alone,” Dr. Mallery said.

How Body Piercing Can Go Wrong

A while back, we looked at a few of the problems oral piercings can cause for your teeth and gums – from infection to pushing teeth out of alignment. But there are others.

Last month, the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology published a comprehensive review of “the medical consequences of body piercing.” First, there are those that can crop up regardless of where the piercing is.

Localized infections are common. Systemic infections such as viral hepatitis and toxic shock syndrome and distant infections such as endocarditis and brain abscesses have been reported. Other general complications include allergic contact dermatitis (e.g. from nickel or latex), bleeding, scarring and keloid formation, nerve damage, and interference with medical procedures such as intubation and blood/organ donation.

Then there are “site-specific” problems. Of concern to dentists:

Oral piercings may lead to difficulty speaking and eating, excessive salivation, and dental problems. Oral and nasal piercings may be aspirated or become embedded, requiring surgical removal.

What the report doesn’t go into, though, are concerns of biological, holistic or integrative practitioners over punching through acupuncture points and housing metal in the body. These can block and disturb energy along the meridians, which can damage health over time. You can learn more about the issue in this helpful overview.

Smokers Avoid the Dentist

Not long after we looked at why smokers need to kick their habit before getting treatment for gum disease – a disease that affects tobacco-users disproportionately – the CDC released some new and sad data on smokers, dental problems and dental care.

The CDC looked at 2008 survey responses from more than 16,000 adults ages 18 through 64.

More than a third of smokers reported having three or more dental problems, ranging from stained teeth to jaw pain, toothaches or infected gums. That was more than twice as much as people who never smoked.

But 20 percent of the smokers said they had not been to a dentist in at least five years. Only 10 percent of non-smokers and former smokers had stayed away that long, the study found.

Smokers seem to be aware their dental health is worse “but they’re not doing anything about it,” said Robin Cohen, a CDC statistician who co-authored the new report.

Why not?

Half said they couldn’t afford it, which makes sense: Smoking rates are higher among lower income groups, it’s an expensive habit and the amount and type of damage it causes can quickly inflate a dental bill. I suspect fear plays a role, too – fear of The Lecture, as noted before, and fear of finding out just how bad the problems are.

Unfortunately, the avoidance tactic usually ends up costing much more. According to a study in the Journal of Periodontology, patients with gum disease who did without periodontal treatment could only replace 4 teeth before they were spending more than they would have for a lifetime of periodontal care.

A lifetime!

“Feasible”?

Last, a headline – from a story about recent UK debates on the use of mercury amalgam in dentistry:

Well, amalgam fillings are sure as heck not feasible in any term!

Images by Lottery Monkey, jpmatth and Savannah Roberts, via Flickr

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The Persistent Defense of Mercury Fillings

It’s kind of a weird passage to find on a site that promises to “improve your world” by covering “the broadest scope of environmental and social responsibility issues on the internet.” (Then again, the corporate-sponsored site – Mother Nature Network – gets funding from the likes of environmental polluter Georgia-Pacific, so maybe some cognitive dissonance is to be expected.)

From “6 Signs You Need a New Dentist,” originally published in Woman’s Day:

If your dentist recommends that you replace all of your silver fillings with tooth-colored versions, you may want to get a second opinion. While there are some theories that the mercury content in silver fillings can be harmful to your health, none of them has been proven to be true, says Dr. Gross. According to Shelley Seidel, DDS, MD, who practices at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons of Houston and is the director of the Institute for Dental Implant Awareness, as long as you don’t have cavities below your fillings — which can be detected by examination or x-ray — or the fillings aren’t broken or fractured, there is no need to replace them. “If your dentist wants to take them out simply because silver fillings are passé, you’re asking for trouble because you don’t know how your teeth will react,” explains Dr. Gross. “They may react in an unfavorable way, becoming more sensitive or in need of a root canal or crown.” (emphasis added)

Amalgam being “passé” is hardly the issue.

As regular readers know, “silver” describes only the color of these fillings, which mostly consist of mercury, a potent neurotoxin. Though more and more dentists have quit using mercury amalgam, US dentists alone place about 70 million of these fillings every year, using 34 tons of mercury. But not all that mercury goes into patients’ mouths. Tons of it are released into the water system each year, as well. As Dr. Bicuspid has reported,

Approximately 50% of mercury entering local waste treatment plants comes from dental amalgam waste – about 3.7 tons of mercury annually, according to the EPA. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish, and animals that eat fish. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans, and the EPA is concerned that methylmercury can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born.

And it doesn’t even take that much mercury to cause contamination: As little as one teaspoonful (PDF) can render a 22 acre lake toxic.

Yet it’s considered okay to put mercury in a person’s mouth, mere inches from the brain?

Contrary to Dr. Gross’s claim, there is a substantial scientific record of amalgam’s power to harm human health. (For a sample, see this and this and this.) There has also been work along the lines of a study published just this month in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation which demonstrated long-lasting reduction of health complaints after mercury removal.

That said, no conscientious dentist would make a the kind of generalizing statement like the one used in the MNN/Woman’s Day article: “You need to replace all of your silver fillings with white ones.” You can’t just assume that if a person has amalgams, they must be removed. Our bodies have excretory mechanisms to remove any toxins that enter. Some people have healthier, more robust systems than others. Some carry a heavier toxic load due to multiple and/or ongoing exposures, not just mercury.

You have to ask, Is the person experiencing symptoms? Are amalgams the primary cause?

Always, you need to look at each individual’s health situation and do the appropriate exams and evaluations to determine the presence and impact of any oral obstacles to systemic health. If you find any – mercury fillings or otherwise (e.g., infected root canal teeth or cavitations) – you then map out a systematic, patient-specific plan for treatment and healing. And if amalgam removal is involved, it must be done safely (PDF). You also need to be sure that the new restorations are biocompatible, which is determined beforehand through blood serum analysis and other tests.

So, yes: The caution against rushing into amalgam removal (or any other treatment) is sound. You just don’t need to justify it by insisting against evidence that amalgam is risk-free.

Note: There’ll be no post next week, due to the Veteran’s Day holiday.

Mouth image by brillenschlange, via Flickr

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World Health Organization Urges Move Away from Dental Amalgam

There’s been plenty of good news lately on the effort to end the Age of Toxic Dentistry, such as the Malibu City Council’s resolution supporting the global phase-out of dental mercury, which was unanimously approved just last week.

Malibu now joins Costa Mesa and Santa Ana as California cities opposed to dental amalgam.

And now more good news: The World Health Organization has finally released its 2009 report on the “Future Use of Materials for Dental Restorations,” which likewise urges a global “phase down” of toxic mercury amalgam.

The report has been released in preparation for the third of five Intergovernmental Committee deliberations that are expected to lead to the adoption of a legally binding treaty on mercury by 2013.

Here’s more on the report from Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice – and how he’d like YOU to get involved on this issue:

In a clear sign that dentistry’s amalgam era is fading, the World Health Organization (WHO) just released its long-awaited report on dental amalgam. In Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration, WHO urges “a switch in use of dental materials” away from amalgam.

“[F]or many reasons,” WHO explains, “restorative materials alternative to dental amalgam are desirable.” The report describes three of these reasons in detail:

  • WHO determines that amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury”: WHO concludes that amalgam poses a serious environmental health problem because amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury” into the environment, including the atmosphere, surface water, groundwater, and soil. WHO says “When released from dental amalgam use into the environment through these pathways, mercury is transported globally and deposited. Mercury releases may then enter the human food chain especially via fish consumption.”
  • WHO determines that amalgam raises “general health concerns”: While the report acknowledges that a few dental trade groups still believe amalgam is safe for all, the WHO report reaches a very different conclusion: “Amalgam has been associated with general health concerns.” The report observes, “According to the Norwegian Dental Biomaterials Adverse Reaction Unit, the majority of cases of side-effects of dental filling materials are linked with dental amalgam.”
  • WHO determines that “materials alternative to dental amalgam are available”: WHO concludes that “Materials alternative to dental amalgam are available” – and cites many studies indicating that they are superior to amalgam. For example, WHO says “recent data suggest that RBCs [resin-based composites] perform equally well” as amalgam. And compomers have a higher survival rate, says WHO, citing a study finding that 95% of compomers and 92% of amalgams survive after 4 years. Perhaps more important than the survival of the filling, WHO asserts that “Adhesive resin materials allow for less tooth destruction and, as a result, a longer survival of the tooth itself.”

We have come a long way. Less than a year ago, dental trade groups were circulating an unedited and unreviewed draft of this report to government officials, implying that it was WHO’s final position. But the draft was riddled with factual errors and scientifically unsupported claims. Consumers for Dental Choice – working with non-governmental organizations, scientists, and environmentalists from around the globe – organized a letter-writing campaign to insist that the draft be immediately withdrawn, accurately rewritten, and properly reviewed.

And it worked! Now WHO has removed all claims of amalgam’s safety. Now WHO has committed itself to “work for reduction of mercury and the development of a healthy environment.” Now “WHO will facilitate the work for a switch in use of dental materials.”

Thank you to everybody who urged WHO to take this important step to protect future generations from dental mercury.

It’s time for the U.S. FDA to catch up with the world – and we need your help. FDA’s support for amalgam is radically inconsistent with WHO’s new position. Please contact Dr. Jeff Shuren, Director of the FDA Center for Devices, at

jeff.shuren@fda.hhs.gov
Fax: 301-847-8149 & 301-847-8109
Telephone: 301-796-5900
Mail: 10903 New Hampshire Ave., WO66-5431, Room 5442, Silver Spring MD 20993-0002

Here is a sample letter:

Dear Dr. Shuren:

In its recent report, the World Health Organization concludes that dental amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury” and raises “general health concerns.” In light of these serious problems, WHO calls on health authorities like FDA to take action now: “Health authorities can play an active role in advocacy for use of dental materials alternative to amalgam…Directives can be set up for provision of dental care incorporating concerns for oral health and the environment.”

The WHO report says “Materials alternative to dental amalgam are available.” In particular, “Alternative restorative materials of sufficient quality are available for use in the deciduous [baby] dentition of children” – the population whose developing neurological systems are most susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of dental mercury according to FDA. So there is no excuse for subjecting children to the risks associated with dental mercury exposure.

FDA needs to stop amalgam use in children immediately and join WHO in working for a switch to the many mercury-free alternatives to amalgam.

Sincerely,
Your name

Thank you for working with us to protect everyone worldwide from mercury fillings!

Charlie
18 October 2011

Charles G. Brown
National Counsel, Consumers for Dental Choice
President, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry
316 F St. NE, Suite 210, Washington DC 20002
Telephone: 202-544-6333
Fax: 202-544-6331

The full WHO report is available here (PDF).

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30+ Years of Mercury-Free Dentistry

There’s a lot of high-quality, detailed and well-documented information out there about the health hazards of dental mercury. Many who contact my office about their dental needs are already quite familiar with it. In fact, their research is often what brought them to my office in the first place. Still, they have specific questions about me, my practice and what they can expect in terms of treatment.

So I created a FAQ to address the most common questions and concerns. Here’s an excerpt to round out Mercury-Free Dentistry Week:

  • How long have you been a mercury-free dentist?
    I have been a mercury-free dentist since the mid-1970s.
  • What qualifies you to diagnose and safely treat dental mercury poisoning?
    I have taken hundreds of hours of postgraduate training in order to learn the proper techniques of and science supporting this dental treatment. This study is in addition to my general qualifications as a dentist and related continuing education, which you can read about here.
  • How do you know if mercury amalgam fillings are causing a problem?
    I begin by gathering as much information as possible. The first visit involves a comprehensive, oral, head and neck examination, in which we fully chart your current dental, periodontal (gum) and oral conditions. We evaluate the state of your occlusion (bite), TM joint function and musculoskeletal condition, and perform galvanic, pulp vitality and allergy tests. We get further documentation of conditions via intra- and extra-oral photos, x-rays and diagnostic cast models. Unfortunately, there is still no single test that can prove without a doubt that dental mercury is causing a particular health problem. However, there are several tests that can help confirm diagnosis. These include hair analysis, fecal mercury analysis, blood chemistry, heavy metals urine challenge and electrodermal screening.
  • Which mercury-removal protocols do you follow?
    Standards of care for safe removal (PDF) have been established and are maintained by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT).

     

     

    These standards help ensure that the mercury is removed safely and that the patient, dentist and staff are not exposed to the poisonous mercury vapor that is released during the process. My staff and I are trained in and have followed this protocol since its inception. Before that, we followed the widely-accepted Huggins Protocol, which continues to guide our work in this area, as well.

  • What will you replace the mercury fillings with?
    There are hundreds of different dental restoration materials and cements that can be combined in literally millions of ways. Our rule of thumb is to use the most practical and least toxic. We’ll look to what’s most compatible with your specific biochemistry and what’s most suited to the specific dental conditions we need to recreate in your mouth.
  • How do you know if a material is biocompatible?
    The suitability of materials can be accurately assessed via serum compatibility testing, electrodermal screening (EAV) or applied kinesiology. Of these, serum compatibility is the surest and most thorough, and we strongly recommend it for those with autoimmune disorders, multiple chemical sensitivities or other environmentally-aggravated illness. We prefer the serum testing provided by Clifford Consulting and Research, for which samples of your blood are specially prepared and mixed with hundreds of dental chemicals that are used in several thousand dental products. The antibodies produced provide an immunological record of offensive chemical families, and this information is cross-referenced with over 2000 dental products. With this info at hand, we can find the materials most suited to your unique biochemistry, double-checking their suitability via electrical testing and applied kinesiology, both of which we provide in our office. We want to be absolutely sure that we never replace one poison with another.
  • How fast can I expect to feel better after removing the mercury?
    While you may have read some accounts of people feeling physical relief within hours of having old mercury amalgams removed, it’s unrealistic to expect instant results. Nor is it possible to say how quickly you will experience relief. Results can never be predicted. Each affected person carries a different toxic burden. This alone varies the time it takes to rid the body of mercury completely. Some people may show improvement within months. Those with heavier toxic burdens or more compromised immune systems may need years to recover.
  • I feel fine. Should I have the mercury removed anyway?
    Eliminating any toxin from the body is an undeniable good. While there may not be an immediate effect, you pave the way for greater health, quality of life and longevity. Taking preventive measures is to be properly concerned with the long-term impact of the health choices you make today. Obviously, I recommend removing any potential source of illness or dysfunction. But it is not my role to make your choices for you. You must consider your own needs, desires, values and goals. You must consider the whole of your knowledge of your health and how to maintain good health. You must educate yourself about your options. It is my role to help you do this – and make the most informed choices possible.

Read the full version of the Mercury FAQ.

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One Mercury Filling Is Too Many

Every so often, the Wealthy Dentist surveys dentists on their use of mercury amalgam. In their latest poll, 67% of dentists said they place amalgam fillings at least some of the time: 40% regularly, 27% “in only [sic] special circumstances.” This is quite a change from past results, in which 53% of dentists said they don’t place amalgam – though the difference may be due to there being no “sometimes” option in past polls, and that dentists decide if they want to participate or not. These are hardly scientific polls.

But research published earlier this year in JADA suggests that higher rates of use are more accurate. Amalgam is still more common than composite (tooth-colored filling material) and especially favored by younger dentists and those who work in large group practices:

Dentists who graduated in the past 5 years placed amalgam on 61% of the lesions they treated. One explanation may be that younger dentists are more likely to be in large group practices where they work on salary, rather than fee-for-service, said [study author] Dr. Sonia K. Makhija. The type of material might be dictated by managers of the group practice. In large group practices (4 dentists or more), 79% of the restorations were amalgam (P < .001). "It's quicker, it's easier and it's cheaper to use amalgam," Dr. Makhija said. [emphasis added]

And that, as they say, is the gist and sum of it.

However many are being placed, the simple fact of the matter is that one mercury filling is too many. We know now that there is no longer a place for mercury amalgam in dentistry. While the FDA has flip-flopped and currently holds that mercury fillings are safe, just this year, one of its own scientific panels said otherwise:

According to the panel, FDA’s amalgam risk assessments were not adequate to protect hypersensitive adults, children and unborn babies. Repeatedly, panel members expressed their concern about amalgam use in children. Pediatric neurologist Dr. Suresh Kotagal of the Mayo Clinic summed it up for the entire panel: “There is really no place for mercury in children.” Other panelists went on to explain that dental mercury is like lead. The panel urged FDA to quickly contraindicate amalgam for these vulnerable populations and insisted that FDA provide consumers with labeling containing clear warnings.

Dental amalgam is more than 50% mercury, a known neurotoxin. There is no safe level of exposure. It is considered “toxic waste” outside the mouth but somehow magically inert and harmless when packed into living human teeth.

Mercury fillings have been linked to neurological, autoimmune and cardiovascular disorders, as well as enigmatic chronic illnesses such as CFS, fibromyalgia and MCS. It is continually released from the fillings into the general circulation just under the normal pressures of chewing and swallowing. Indeed, up to 95% of the mercury may be “lost” over time. But it doesn’t just disappear. That which isn’t excreted turns up in other tissues, including the brain. And while videos such as “Smoking Teeth = Poison Gas” have brought a lot of attention to the reality of “outgassing,” this isn’t the only way mercury may enter the general circulation. Some research has shown that mercury may travel through the teeth themselves.

There are many nontoxic alternatives that 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. All things considered, there just is no good reason for a dentist to place mercury fillings.

 

 

So why do so many dentists keep using it? Here’s a sample of responses to that Wealthy Dentist poll:

  • “I don’t understand what the big hoopla is about banning it entirely. Health concerns? Unproven. Mercury in environment? Don’t blame the dentists.” [Fact: Dentistry is the largest source of wastewater mercury pollution.]
  • “The greatest posterior restoration ever!”
  • “They are the most technically forgiving, economical workable restorative still.”
  • “There is nothing wrong with amalgam restorations — they are efficient and cost effective for the patient!”
  • “They last much longer, less sensitivity and there is no credible evidence they have killed anyone. [A straw man. The issue is harm, for which there is certainly evidence. (PDF)] Remember composites contain Bis-Phenol and I still place many more composites, GI’s, then amalgams. [Fact: Not all composites contain BPA. All amalgams, however, do contain mercury.] Because of their proven longevity, it is unethical to not offer amalgam to your dental patients.” [Fact: This “longevity” claim is a canard. Many new generation restorative materials are reported to be as strong and durable as metal.]
  • “I still love amalgams. I am also tired of all the amalgam-bashing. I believe most of it is profit-driven. I had great gold and amalgams placed years ago in my mouth. No one ever notices.”[Fact: Placing different metals next to each other in the mouth can create galvanic currents, which can also contribute to illness.]

This coming week, September 4 – 9, Consumers for Dental Choice will be teaming up with Dr. Mercola to promote Mercury-Free Dentistry Week. Each day, Dr. Mercola will run an article in honor of mercury-free dentistry – and the people who have worked so hard to stop this toxin from contaminating our bodies, our planet and our workplaces.

I’ll be posting mercury-related content on my office’s Facebook page all week, as well. So be sure to connect with me there so you can stay up to date – not only on the mercury issue but all aspects of holistic, biological dental health and wellness.

Image by foshydog, via Flickr

Updated 9/9/11

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The Ongoing Fight Against Dental Mercury Amalgam

Late last month, the Second Session of the World Mercury Treaty negotiations was held in Chiba, Japan. The World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry (WAMFD) – a coalition of consumer organizations from around the globe – was there to advocate for a provision to phase out mercury fillings. Charlie Brown, National Counsel of Consumers for Dental Choice and President of the WAMFD, recently sent this progress report:

  • Our meeting kicked off with the announcement that the World Health Organization has withdrawn the biased paper that the American Dental Association so heavily cited as “reinforc[ing] dental amalgam as a safe and effective restorative material.” The alleged WHO report had been passed off as the conclusions of the team of scientists, environmentalists, and dentists who met in November 2009 to discuss the future of amalgam. We exposed the paper as nothing more than a propaganda piece slapped together by a rogue dentist inside WHO who failed even to consult the other meeting participants before signing their names to his paper (needless to say they were furious; they did not remember ever declaring amalgam safe). Then, we organized the worldwide condemnation of this paper that led to its hurried retraction. You can learn how we accomplished this feat step-by-step by watching this video interview, courtesy of filmmaker Kelly Gallagher.
  • Because of our work, the first draft of the treaty lists amalgam as one of only five mercury products to be phased out. While the war is not won, we did succeed in keeping it on the list for now.
  • Thanks to the efforts of our regional vice presidents Dr. Naji Kodeih and Dominique Bally, both the Arab League and the African region announced that they support the phase-out of amalgam and the promotion of alternatives.
  • We gained a valuable new ally dedicated to ending dental mercury: Health Care Without Harm. We congratulate Health Care Without Harm for convincing the Mexico City Health Secretariat to deauthorize the purchase of amalgam in the city’s hospitals and obtaining a discussion paper from Argentina calling for a phase down of amalgam and use of alternatives.

Unfortunately, adds Charlie, “The delegates made no major decisions in this early round, not on amalgam, not on anything. Thus how amalgam will ultimately be addressed in this treaty will not be determined until the third negotiating session, to be held in an African city in October.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that the “European commission is due to publish the findings of its review on dental amalgam fillings in March. In a preliminary report, published online in July, the company tasked with the study, Bio Intelligence Service, recommended phasing out mercury in dental care in Europe.”

Of course, it was just a few years ago when the EC’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) released its report (PDF) touting the safety of mercury fillings. “SCENIHR recognises that dental amalgam is an effective restorative material,” they wrote, “and may be considered the material of choice for some restorations….We conclude that dental health can be adequately ensured by both types of material [mercury amalgam and composite]. All the materials are considered safe to use and they are all associated with very low rates of local adverse effects with no evidence of systemic disease.”

That’s what they said. But their report was greatly flawed. Now, a paper by Dr. Joachim Mutter recently published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology casts a very bright light on those flaws. The main problem? According to Dr. Mutter,

SCENIHR disregarded the toxicology of mercury and did not include most important scientific studies in their review. But the real scientific data show that:

(a) Dental amalgam is by far the main source of human total mercury body burden. This is proven by autopsy studies which found 2-12 times more mercury in body tissues of individuals with dental amalgam. Autopsy studies are the most valuable and most important studies for examining the amalgam-caused mercury body burden.

(b) These autopsy studies have shown consistently that many individuals with amalgam have toxic levels of mercury in their brains or kidneys.

(c) There is no correlation between mercury levels in blood or urine, and the levels in body tissues or the severity of clinical symptoms. SCENIHR only relied on levels in urine or blood.

(d) The half-life of mercury in the brain can last from several years to decades, thus mercury accumulates over time of amalgam exposure in body tissues to toxic levels. However, SCENIHR state that the half-life of mercury in the body is only “20-90 days”.

(e) Mercury vapor is about ten times more toxic than lead on human neurons and with synergistic toxicity to other metals.

(f) Most studies cited by SCENIHR which conclude that amalgam fillings are safe have severe methodical flaws.

Dr. Mutter’s paper provides an excellent overview of the research record on mercury in dental amalgam and its links to a variety of illnesses, including ALS, MS and Alzheimer’s. It’s a must-read for anyone concerned about the dangers of “silver” fillings and is freely accessible here.

Will critiques such as this, coupled with the new recommendation against mercury be enough to get the EC to ban mercury in dentistry? Stay tuned…

Cross-posted

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