Despite its highly-toxic nature, mercury fillings are one of the most common treatments for filling cavities. The use of neurotoxin mercury amalgam in the field of dentistry dates back to 150 years. Millions of Americans have mercury fillings, commonly known as “Silver fillings,” placed in their mouths.
While mercury fillings are so commonly used, several studies warn of the harmful effects of mercury exposure to your oral and overall health. In this post, we will explore mercury fillings, the dangers of mercury poisoning, and the removal of mercury filing.
Before we delve into the dangers of mercury fillings, it is important to know which type of mercury is used in the silver fillings.
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What is Mercury?
Mercury is a naturally-occurring toxic chemical element found in different forms, including methylmercury and elemental mercury.
Methylmercury is a product of mercury and carbon. It is a powerful neurotoxin found in water, plants, soil, and animals, especially fish. While methylmercury is widespread in the environment, you cannot see it with a naked eye. Many household items also contain methylmercury, such as latex paint, batteries, and fluorescent lights.
Also known as metallic mercury, elemental mercury is pure. It is a silver-white metal that exists in liquid form at room temperature. When elemental mercury is dropped, it breaks into smaller droplets that can strongly attach to specific materials. Exposed elemental mercury evaporates into an odorless toxic vapor at room temperature.
Upon heating, elemental mercury changes its form to a colorless and odorless gas. You may find metallic mercury in thermometer, barometer, some electrical switches, and fluorescent light bulbs. Not to mention, elementary mercury is a major element found in silver or amalgam dental fillings.
Amalgam Dental Fillings
Amalgam dental filling, popularly known as “silver” dental fillings, is a combination of different metals. The main metals include silver and mercury; besides, various amounts of tin, copper, zinc, indium, and other metals are also used.
It is interesting to note that while mercury constitutes 48-55% of the filling, silver makes up for only 33-35%. When these metals combine, they create a hard material called amalgam, which is filled into the decaying tooth.
Since mercury is the major element in the filling, some practitioners or experts in dentistry, also refer to it as mercury dental fillings.
Why People are Concerned?
Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin, a poison. Several studies have supported the claim that mercury is more toxic than cadmium, lead, and even arsenic. Moreover, there is no known safe level or threshold for mercury exposure.
The debate around the health risk associated with mercury fillings is as old as the filling. It was in the 19th century that dentists first used mercury fillings for cavity treatment. The controversy surfaced then only. Many people came forward and reported the harmful effects of mercury fillings.
In the wake of the growing concern about mercury poisoning, many dentists vowed to stop the use of mercury fillings in dentistry. In 1845, the American Society of Dental Surgeons – the predecessor of the American Dental Association – asked the members to pledge to avoid mercury amalgam.
Amalgam; the Greatest Source of Mercury Exposure
First in 1991 and then in 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the silver dental amalgam is one of the greatest sources of human exposure to mercury. A 2005 report by WHO listed the harmful effects of mercury exposure. The report stated that mercury has “no threshold” below which some effects may not occur.
Dental Amalgam Releases Toxic Mercury
The European Union Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) conducted amalgam risk assessments in 1995, 2010, and 2012. Dr. G. Mark Richardson –an expert to SCHER – noted that dental fillings release toxic levels of mercury.
A 2012 Yale University study found substantial evidence regarding occupational mercury exposure. Two different studies published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) looked at the adverse effects of mercury fillings on children and adolescents. Another study revealed that dental amalgam fillings release mercury into the breast milk of mothers.
Despite numerous studies, the majority of dentists across the US continue to use amalgam fillings. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), over 100 million Americans have mercury fillings placed in their mouths.
However, many countries, including Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, have banned the use of amalgam fillings due to environmental and health risks. Due to its proven poisonous effects, mercury fillings are not used for pregnant women, children, and people with kidney problems, in these countries.
Mercury Fillings Are Not Safe
The debate around the safety of mercury fillings is on-going. Big organizations like WHO and ADA have supported the use of mercury fillings, and label them as a safe, affordable, and durable treatment for tooth decay.
However, ADA has received backlash on its viewpoint from several organizations. Most notably, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) challenged ADA’s claim.
IAOMT vehemently disputed ADA’s stance that there is no scientific evidence on the adverse effects of mercury dental amalgams. In a press release, James M. Love, J.D., IAOMT’s legal counsel, stated that ADA is supporting its self-serving view. “Public health is not an ADA priority,” he added.
How Mercury Fillings Affect Your Body
Scientific evidence suggests that mercury amalgam exposes dental staff, dental professionals, patients, and fetuses to mercury vapor and other mercury contaminants. You may also get exposed to mercury during the placement, replacement, and/or removal of a dental mercury filling.
Mercury is bio-accumulative as per the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Bioaccumulation means the steady increase in the concentration of a chemical in tissues or organs. Studies conducted on the people with silver fillings have shown that both mercury from exposure and mercury vapors bio-accumulate in certain tissues, including the brain and kidneys.
Mercury is released in the form of mercury vapors and abraded particles. Certain activities like chewing, brushing, clenching of teeth, and sipping hot liquids, stimulate the process by 15 times. For instance, if you have mercury filling, every time you chew, a small amount of mercury releases into your body. The amount may range anywhere between 2-20 micrograms per day.
According to WHO, the daily intake of mercury from silver fillings has exceeded the amount of mercury consumed from the combined sources, including water, air, and food. Your body thoroughly absorbs the mercury vapors released from the dental fillings through inhaling and swallowing.
The Dangers of Mercury Poisoning
Mercury is a toxic element with no known safe level of exposure. Whether the exposure is acute or chronic, it can cause adverse effects on your health. Ideally, children and adults both should have no mercury in their bodies.
Inhaling elemental mercury vapors in large amounts is poisonous. Once your lungs breathe in the mercury vapors, they quickly get absorbed in the bloodstream. Blood transports the mercury to the different body organs, but it specifically damages the brain and the kidneys.
Mercury Poisoning and Pregnant Women
Women who are pregnant and those who plan to conceive have an increased risk of mercury poisoning. Mercury exposure affects the development of unborn fetus and children. The toxic effects of mercury vapor are hazardous for the neurological system of the unborn.
Women are susceptible to mercury exposure during the prenatal and postnatal periods. As per the National Capital Poison Center, the vapors can pass through the placenta into the fetal circulation. Eventually, it absorbs into the milk of breastfeeding women.
Mercury Poisoning and Brain
Mercury fillings are one of the major contributors to mercury poisoning in the human body. It leads to many health risks, such as insomnia, tremors, headaches, nerve damage, respiratory failure, and kidney problems.
A recent study by the University of Washington found that the release of mercury toxins from silver dental amalgam, even in low-levels, can cause long-term brain damage. Human autopsy studies have also hinted at a possible link between mercury and the brain. The findings suggest that the mercury found in the brain has a direct correlation with the number of mercury fillings placed in the mouth.
Mercury Poisoning and Intestinal Micro-flora
Mercury also affects the normal intestinal micro-flora making it mercury resistant and antibiotic-resistant. Mercury resistant bacteria convert the mercury in the intestinal tract into vapors, recycling it back to the body. Not to mention, anti-biotic resistance is a major health concern.
Other Health Issues
Scientific research has shown how mercury can damage the tissues of your brain and kidney. Besides, mercury exposure can affect your heart, liver, lungs, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, and adrenal gland. Also, it may affect the blood cells, hormones, and enzymes, thereby suppressing your body’s immune system.
The Risk of Galvanism
A battery has two electrodes –the cathode and the anode. Both electrodes are made of different metals in a liquid medium. Placing them in an electrolytic solution causes the electrodes to react chemically. The reaction generates an electrical current.
The same battery effect may also occur in your mouth if you have amalgam dental fillings. Silver, tin, copper, and zinc, present in the fillings, act as electrodes. On the other hand, the saliva in your mouth provides the liquid medium for the chemical reaction.
The flow of electric current in the mouth is known as “Oral galvanism.” Some people also refer to it as “tooth currents,” “electric teeth,” and “a battery in the mouth.”
Effects of Oral Galvanism
Oral galvanism amplifies the process of corrosion of amalgam fillings. The tooth currents also increase the release of mercury vapor and free-mercury droplets from the filling into your mouth. The process exacerbates when gold crowns come in contact with the dental fillings.
Some studies suggest that oral galvanism can cause excruciating pain, headache, fatigue, mood swings, sleep deprivation, ulcerations, and inflammation in vulnerable patients.
The Symptoms Ascribed to Mercury Filling
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, how exposure to mercury affects an individual depends on many factors, including:
- The form of mercury consumed
- The amount of mercury exposed
- The age of the person affected –unborn babies are at the highest risk
- The duration of the exposure
- The nature of exposure, i.e., whether the person has breathed in mercury or consumed it through food
- Individual’s health and genetic ability to resist mercury toxicity
These factors dictate how your body will react to mercury exposure. It is important to know that the symptoms of chronic mercury exposure may take years to surface. Perhaps, for this reason, it becomes difficult to correlate disease with mercury dental amalgam. Here are some of the symptoms that you may experience due to prolonged or acute mercury exposure:
- Muscle tremors
- Gum problems
- Sore throat, ulcer, and oral cavity
- Metallic taste
- Emotional changes, such as bad temper, anxiety, nervousness
- Headaches, insomnia, and migraine
- Skin disturbances (numbness)
- Lack of energy and concentration; fatigue
- Thyroid problems
- Urinary tract problems
- Respiratory failure
The Removal of Mercury Fillings
The longer the silver fillings stay in your mouth, the higher the level of mercury exposure. While it may not be possible to remove the toxin mercury completely, you may prevent it from building. The ideal case is to get the amalgam fillings removed.
In an article published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, NCBI has recommended a safe protocol for amalgam removal. IAOMT has also established a series of recommendations known as the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART).
Before the procedure starts, the dentist has to take some preventive measures, including:
It is important to protect the head, eyes, and face of the patient. Only the mouth is left uncovered. Goggles and a hair cap will help prevent mercury vapors from getting into contact with the patient.
The patient is draped with a plastic apron covering the clothing and skin. The gown must be immediately washed after the process.
A customized rubber dam is fit and sealed over the patient’s existing teeth. It prevents particulates from contacting any tissues or oral mucosa. The dentist may also place a saliva ejector behind the rubber dam.
Dentists use charcoal or chlorella before and after the removal of dental amalgam. The doctor places the charcoal beneath the dam with a cotton piece. The toxic elements are mostly found in the sublingual tissues. Chlorella rinses the mouth and removes the toxins.
To protect the patient from breathing any mercury vapors in the air, the dentist provides oxygen with a nasal mask.
Besides the patient, the dental room must also be clean. There should be proper ventilation and adequate filtration in the room. Also, the room must have an amalgam separator for the collection of mercury waste.
While the patient’s safety is the top priority, the dentist and the dental staff also need to be careful during the whole process. They must wear masks covering their faces and also nasal masks for oxygen if required. The dentists are also required to wear gloves, gowns, and other protective garments.
The Chelation Treatments Post Mercury Filling Removal
80% of the mercury vapor from the amalgam fillings released into the body is inhaled through the lungs. It then gets absorbed into the bloodstream. After the removal of mercury fillings, it is important to get rid of the mercury toxins from the body. For this purpose, holistic dentistry recommends getting chelation treatment following the removal procedure.
How it Works
The literal meaning of “Chelation” is “to bind,” and that’s what chelation therapy does. It is a detoxifying process for clearing the harmful pathogens from the body. During the process, a chelating agent or amino acid called EDTA is administered in the body. The agent readily binds to toxic minerals and chemicals, such as mercury, and prepares it for removal.
Not only chelation therapy rids the body of deadly toxins but also restores blood circulation to your body’s tissues. Further, it removes the plaque buildup in the artery walls, thereby reducing your risk of a stroke or heart attack.
You may also need to make some changes in your diet as a part of the detoxification process. It is recommended to add some leafy greens and high protein in your diet. Also, consume unprocessed pure oils, such as sesame oil and sunflower oil. Natural fats, like nuts, seeds, avocado, and poultry products, may also help in the process.
Mercury is a poisonous element that can cause serious damage to your health. Pregnant women and unborn babies are more prone to mercury exposure from dental amalgam fillings. It can affect your brain, kidneys, and other body tissues and organs.
While chelation therapy helps get rid of the toxic material from the body, it cannot remove all the toxins completely. So, it is better to avoid mercury fillings in the first place. In case you already have a dental amalgam in your mouth, get it removed as soon as possible. Make sure that your dentist follows a safe protocol for mercury filling removal.
THIS DENTAL OFFICE DOES NOT USE ANY “SILVER” FILLING MATERIAL
FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:
- FACT: “Silver” or amalgam dental fillings contain from 48-55 percent mercury, 33-35 percent silver, and various amounts of copper, tin, zinc, and other metals. Since mercury is the major component of the material, any representation of the material should include the word “mercury.” Thus, in this office, we refer to them as mercury dental fillings.
- FACT: Mercury is a powerful poison. Published research has shown that mercury is more toxic than lead, cadmium, and even arsenic. Furthermore, there is no known toxic threshold for mercury vapor and world-renowned mercury toxicologists have stated that no amount of exposure to mercury vapor can be considered totally harmless.
- FACT: Scientific research has demonstrated that mercury, even in small amounts, can damage the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, thyroid gland, pituitary gland, adrenal gland, blood cells, enzymes and hormones, and suppress the body’s immune system. Mercury has been shown to cross the placental membrane in pregnant women and cause permanent damage to the brain of the developing baby.
- FACT: Mercury is continually released from mercury dental fillings in the form of mercury vapor and abraded particles. This process is stimulated and can be increased as much as
15-fold by chewing, brushing, hot liquids, etc. The World Health Organization recently concluded that the daily intake of mercury from amalgam dental fillings exceeded the combined daily intake of mercury derived from air, water, and food (including fish).
- FACT: The mercury vapor released from mercury dental fillings is absorbed very rapidly and thoroughly in your body primarily by inhalation and swallowing.
- FACT: In human autopsy studies, it has been found that there is a direct correlation between the amount of mercury found in the brain and the number and surfaces of mercury fillings in the teeth.
- FACT: Mercury causes normal intestinal microflora to become mercury resistant and antibiotic resistant. Mercury resistant bacteria cause mercury in the intestinal tract to be converted back into vapor and recycled back into the body. Antibiotic resistance is becoming a major medical concern.
- FACT: Recent scientific research has shown high levels of mercury in the brains of individuals dead from Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Other research is demonstrating mercury can cause similar pathological effects in the brain as that seen in Lou Gehrig’s Disease
(ALS) and AD. Laboratory studies of spinal fluid from ALS and AD patient’s has confirmed that mercury inhibits key brain detoxification enzyme systems.
- ESTABLISHMENT POSITION: The American Dental Association and various agencies of the U.S. Government still support the use of amalgam dental fillings. They claim they are safe based on 150 years of use and that there is no scientific evidence showing mercury exposure from dental fillings causes any known disease.
Should you or your children have mercury fillings put in your teeth? That is a decision only you can make.
You have a right to freedom of choice and informed consent.
If you wish more information on the subject.