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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