Are Your Teeth Killing You?

In Cognitive Health, Featured Article

Having a cavity filled by the dentist is hardly enjoyable. It doesn’t matter how comfortable the chair… Or how pretty the scenery out the window.

It’s especially disturbing if you consider what he’s putting in your teeth.

There’s a good chance he’s filling your cavity with dental amalgam. It’s the “silver” material dentists have used to fill cavities in the US for more than 150 years.

But dental amalgam contains a deadly poison: Mercury. Studies have linked this element to autism, Alzheimer’s, birth defects, mental illness… even cancer.

Dental amalgam leaks low levels of mercury right into your mouth. You inhale it. And it’s absorbed into your body.

Amalgam is banned in Scandinavia. Countries like Germany have restricted its use. But not the US.

The FDA says it’s harmful for pregnant women and children. But they’ve stopped short of declaring it a lethal substance.

The dental industry is divided over the safety of dental amalgams.

The Wealthy Dentist is a dental marketing information company. It surveyed 320 dentists, and found that they were split down the middle on the issue.

The dentists were asked, “Does your dental practice place amalgam fillings?” Forty-seven percent said “yes.” Just 53 percent said “no.”

There’s also controversy among dentists over whether taking out the old fillings does more harm than good. That’s because removing an amalgam filling can increase the amount of mercury circulating in your body for up to three months.

What you want to find is a “mercury free” dentist. One who is committed to your health. You also need to know about risks associated with mercury removal, and what precautions you should take.

The Amalgam Controversy

Amalgam was created in the 1800s by a Frenchman named Louis Regnart. He mixed mercury with boiled mineral cement to fill cavities. Today he’s known as the “Father of Amalgam.”

The mixture is about 50% liquid mercury. The other half is made up of a powdered alloy. This contains tin, silver, and copper. The mercury is liquid at room temperature. So it bonds well with the powdered alloy.

But from the beginning there were safety concerns. They led to the so-called Amalgam Wars.

In 1833, the Crawcour brothers brought dental amalgam from France to the US. By 1844, it was used for 50% of all fillings. That sparked a backlash from the American Society of Dental Surgeons (ASDS). They were the only national dental association at the time.

The ASDS called use of the amalgam “malpractice.” They required members to sign a pledge not to use it. They also ran the Crawcour brothers out of the country.

But dentists liked amalgam. It’s durable, easy to use, and inexpensive. They didn’t want to stop using it. The ASDS was forced to back down on its position in 1850. It disbanded a few years later.

Today the removal of mercury fillings is just as controversial. That’s because dentists cut the amalgam with a dental bur. It produces little particles. This exposes the patient to mercury.

In 1990, scientists in Scandinavian conducted an experiment. The study was titled “Mercury Release from Dental Amalgam in Man.” The researchers had volunteers swallow amalgam particles. The subjects’ blood mercury levels increased. They found a three- to four-fold increase in plasma mercury and a 50% rise in urine mercury in 10 of the volunteers.

The scientists concluded that “the GI uptake of mercury from amalgam particles is of quantitative importance.”

In May, the FDA held a town hall meeting in Orlando. More than a dozen anti-mercury activists were there. They demanded that the government restrict or ban the dental fillings.

Dr. Jeff Shuren, head of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiologic Health, told the audience that a scientific panel was being reconvened to study the issue. The panel may reach a conclusion this year.

Dr. James Hardy of Winter Park was one of the dentists present. He is author of the book Mercury Free. He said many dentists are against removing amalgam because it creates hazardous waste. Yet they have no problem putting it in their patients’ mouths.

“After it is taken out of a patient’s mouth, it is treated as hazardous waste,” Dr. Hardy said. “But somehow, when it is in the patient’s mouth, it’s not.”

If you have the silver fillings in your mouth, consider replacing them. But you need to have a conversation with your dentist first. Make sure she understands how to reduce your risks of exposure to mercury.

Dr. Stephen M. Koral graduated from Harvard School of Dental Medicine in 1980. He stopped using mercury fillings three years later. Now he’s a member of the Holistic Dental Association and the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT).

On the IAOMT web site, Dr. Koral lists five steps dentists can take to minimize the risks of removing the amalgam.

  • Slice across the amalgam. Or dislodge it in big chunks so it doesn’t aerosolize.
  • Keep the amalgam under constant water spray while cutting.
  • Lower the temperature to reduce vapor pressure within the mercury.
  • Use a high volume suction.
  • And provide piped-in air so the patient doesn’t have to inhale the toxic material.

Amalgam Alternatives

Many dentists still use amalgam. So you need to make sure you’re safe.

First, find the right dentist. Look for one that is holistic and “mercury free.”

You also want to make sure you understand the procedure. Make sure your dentist plans to use a rubber dam and extra oxygen supply. Discuss Dr. Koral’s risk-reducing steps with her. And ask her to prescribe a supplement to detoxify your body before and after the mercury is removed.

The good news is that people are getting fewer cavities. We’re eating healthier. New dental advancements are keeping our teeth in better shape. And when we do get a cavity, there are alternatives to dental amalgam.

Composite resin is the most popular. It’s made from a type of plastic and powdered glass. It’s more expensive and less durable. But it’s also white – the color of your teeth. And it doesn’t contain toxic mercury.

Another option is glass ionomer cement. It’s also a resin. When it bonds to the tooth, it releases fluoride. It’s recommended for smaller cavities.

But your best tool is to prevent cavities from forming in the first place.

If you’re worried that your existing amalgams have poisoned you, consider chelation. It’s a natural therapy that removes heavy metals – including mercury and lead – from the blood. It also whitens your teeth. You’ll learn about a natural chelation method on Friday.

To your best health,

Michael Jelinek,
Managing Editor, NHD “Health Watch”