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  • The World Health Organization (WHO) released its final report on dental amalgam, and has taken a stance <i>against</i> the use of mercury in dentistry, urging “a switch in use of dental materials” away from amalgam
  • WHO noted that amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury” into the environment and raises “general health concerns,” while alternatives are readily available
  • In December 2010, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel recommended the FDA make sure that all consumers and all parents know that amalgam is mainly mercury, and stop amalgam use for children and pregnant women. The FDA is set to make an announcement on dental amalgam by the end of 2011
  • As a result of enormous public pressure from dentists, health professionals and consumers, we are on the brink of prompting real change in the fight for mercury-free dentistry; you can help us reach the tipping point in order to bring about permanent change
 

Toxic Enough to Require Haz-Mat Transport... Yet Safe for You and Your Children?

January 08, 2012 | 224,200 views

By Dr. Mercola

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its final report on dental amalgam, and has taken a stance against the use of mercury in dentistry -- a move that could signal the beginning of the end for this toxic, outdated practice.

In their report, Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration, WHO committed itself "to work for reduction of mercury and ... facilitate the work for a switch in use of dental materials."

The report states that amalgam "has been associated with general health concerns" and releases a "significant amount of mercury" into the environment.

It also notes that alternatives to amalgam are readily available.

WHO Finally Takes Stance Against Dental Mercury

The final WHO report urges "a switch in use of dental materials" away from amalgam.As reported by Charlie Brown, director of Consumers for Dental Choice,"[F]or many reasons," WHO explains, "restorative materials alternative to dental amalgam are desirable." As Consumers for Dental Choice, which was founded by Bob Jones and Sue Ann Taylor, reported, WHO noted the following three reasons for the new position:

  1. Amalgam releases a "significant amount of mercury" into the environment, including the atmosphere, surface water, groundwater, and soil. WHO reports:

    "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."
  2. 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."
  3. WHO concludes "materials alternative to dental amalgam are available" and cites studies indicating 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.

    In particular, WHO explains that "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. 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."

The report also included mention of the known toxic effects of mercury exposure, stating:

"Mercury is highly toxic and harmful to health. Approximately 80% of inhaled mercury vapor is absorbed in the blood through the lungs, causing damages to lungs, kidneys and the nervous, digestive, respiratory and immune systems. Health effects from excessive mercury exposure include tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, emotional instability, developmental deficits during fetal development, and attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood."

This is the latest revelation in a string of positive progress that has been made this year toward ridding the dental industry of dangerous mercury-containing amalgams.

Will FDA Have Dentists Warn about Dental Amalgams?

As a result of enormous public pressure from dentists, health professionals and consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also promised to make an announcement by year's end about dental amalgam. While the agency is being vague about the substance of this announcement, it is known that FDA is currently reconsidering whether or not to warn the public of the dangers of dental amalgam, and possibly even restrict its use.

As the Chicago Tribune reported:

" … in response to concerns about its ruling, the FDA convened a panel last December to re-examine the issue and expects to make a new announcement by the end of this year."

A series of grassroots protests, petitions, and town meetings in three states this year hosted by the FDA's Center for Devices has resulted in the FDA's reconsideration of its appalling 2009 amalgam rule.

Thanks to Consumers for Dental Choice, town meetings previously attended mostly by industry representatives pleading with the FDA to "go easier on them" are now instead being dominated by consumer advocates demanding government accountability. Their greatest hope is to see mercury amalgams banned altogether, but short of that, Consumers for Dental Choice hopes the FDA will at least make all consumers aware that amalgams are more than 50 percent mercury.

The American Dental Association (ADA) has historically covered up that fact, and, as the 1990 60 Minutes video above noted, even at one time declared that removing mercury fillings is unethical -- despite the known fact that dental amalgam emits mercury vapor after it is implanted in your mouth, and this mercury is bioaccumulative and endangers your health in many ways.

Incidentally, the ADA also takes money from Coca-Cola and other companies whose products promote the formation of cavities. But the tide is certainly changing, as evidenced further by the FDA's December 2010 hearings, which included two days of testimony that were alternatively scientific and emotional. The results were utterly convincing, even to scientists handpicked by FDA. With no dissent, they recommended that FDA promptly:

  • Make sure that all consumers and all parents know that amalgam is mainly mercury
  • Stop amalgam use for children and pregnant women

As panelist Dr. Suresh Kotagal – a pediatric neurologist at the Mayo Clinic – summed it up, there is "no place for mercury in children."

Unprecedented press coverage accompanied these hearings, with every network and most major newspapers writing stories that FDA is determining the health risk of amalgam. Fifty percent of dentists are now mercury-free; you can help abolish the use of mercury fillings by supporting one of them. We are on the brink of prompting real change in the fight for mercury-free dentistry, as the FDA is set to make an announcement on mercury fillings by the end of 2011.

Other Countries Take Stance to Protect Against Mercury Fillings

The FDA panelists are not alone in their assertion that amalgam should no longer be used for children and pregnant women. Other countries are already working to protect vulnerable populations, especially children, from exposure to amalgam.

For example:

  • The 47 nations of the Council of Europe passed a resolution calling on the nations to start "restricting or prohibiting the use of amalgams as dental fillings," explaining that "amalgams are the prime source of exposure to mercury for developed countries, also affecting embryos, fetuses (through the placenta) and children (through breastfeeding).

    Exposure to mercury can seriously affect the health of both patients and dental professionals, and early exposure to low doses of mercury (during pregnancy and through breastfeeding) increases the risk of a decrease in the intelligence quotient (IQ) among children.… According to the World Health Organization in 2005, certain studies show that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur."
  • Australia's National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) says amalgam should be avoided in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and people with kidney disease. As the government of the state of Queensland explained:

    "Amalgam is now generally avoided for filling children's teeth. Growing children tend to be more sensitive to the effects of exposure to any chemical substance in their environment… High level exposure to mercury (which is present in silver fillings) may affect the kidneys. Therefore, the NHMRC, suggest people with kidney disease may be more concerned than others to minimize exposure to mercury."
  • Health Canada directed its dentists to stop using amalgam in children, pregnant women, and people with impaired kidney function – way back in 1996.

Mercury Filling Health Risks in a Nutshell

The metallic mercury used by dentists to manufacture dental amalgam is shipped as a hazardous material to the dental office. Any amalgam leftover is also treated as hazardous and requires special precautions to dispose of, as it should because it can cause wide-ranging damage to your health.

Charlie Brown states:

" … mercury is a reproductive toxin. Meaning, of course, it can harm your unborn baby. It's a neurotoxin meaning it can harm your brain. It's a nephrotoxin meaning it will harm your kidneys. There is no safe level of mercury. This dentist is playing Russian roulette with your child or you if he or she is giving you a mercury filling."

Virtually any kind of stimulation can cause these fillings to release mercury. Eating, drinking, brushing your teeth, grinding your teeth, chewing gum, anything. If you want to see the vapors released for yourself, watch the shocking video below.

Mercury vapor from the amalgams passes readily through cell membranes, across the blood-brain barrier, and into your central nervous system, where it causes psychological, neurological, and immunological problems. Children and fetuses, whose brains are still developing, are most at risk, but really anyone can be impacted.

Further, dental mercury is the number one source of mercury in our wastewater, so dentists are handing the clean-up bill for their pollution to taxpayers and water ratepayers. And this mercury ends up in your food supply, where it can cause continued damage to your health if you eat fish and other contaminated seafood.

Alternatives are Readily Available … and Desired by Most Americans

Far from being an essential dental product with no viable alternatives, amalgam is interchangeable with many other filling materials, as WHO noted -- including resin composites and glass ionomers -- which have rendered amalgam completely unnecessary for any clinical situation. In fact, the mercury-free alternatives are so advanced that entire nations, such as the Scandinavian countries, have stopped the use of amalgam. Already, about half of U.S. dentists are mercury-free and 77 percent of consumers who are told that amalgam contains mercury choose mercury-free alternatives.

One of the most popular alternatives to amalgam is resin composite. Resin composite is made of a type of plastic reinforced with powdered glass. It is already common throughout the U.S. and the rest of the developed world, offering notable improvements over amalgam, as it:

  • Is environmentally safe: Composite, which contains no mercury, does not pollute the environment. This saves taxpayers from paying the costs of cleaning up dental mercury pollution in our water, air, and land – and the costs of health problems associated with mercury pollution.
  • Preserves healthy tooth structure, because, unlike amalgam, it does not require the removal of significant amounts of healthy tooth matter. Over the long term, composite preserves healthy tooth structure and actually strengthens teeth, leading to better oral health and less extensive dental work over the long-term.
  • Is long-lasting: While some claim that amalgam fillings last longer than composite fillings, the science reveals this claim to be baseless. The latest studies show that composite not only lasts as long as amalgam, but actually has a higher overall survival rate.

A lesser-known alternative is increasingly making mercury-free dentistry possible even in the rural areas of developing countries. Atraumatic restorative treatment (also called alternative restorative treatment or ART) is a mercury-free restorative technique that has been demonstrated a success in a diverse array of countries around the world, including Tanzania, India, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Turkey, South Africa, Thailand, Canada, Panama, Ecuador, Syria, Hong Kong, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Chile, Nigeria, China, Uruguay, Peru, and the United States.

ART relies on adhesive materials for the filling (instead of mercury) and uses only hand instruments to place the filling, making it particularly well-suited for rural areas of developing countries.

How to Have Amalgam Fillings Properly Removed

It should be clear that there's simply no such thing as a safe mercury filling. However, please do NOT make the mistake of having your amalgam fillings removed by a dentist who is not properly trained in safe amalgam removal. Doing so could expose you to tremendous health risks, due to the large amounts of mercury vapor being released during the removal process. Research has shown that if you do not take proper safety precautions during the removal process, mercury levels in your blood can rise three to four-fold, which may result in acute toxicity.

SO PLEASE …

Make sure to use a so-called biological dentist that is trained in properly removing mercury fillings. Some things that need to be done to keep you (and your dentist) safe during the procedure include:

  • Providing you with an alternative air source and instructing you not to breathe through your mouth
  • Using a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors
  • Putting a rubber dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins
  • Using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor
  • Washing your mouth out immediately after the fillings have been removed (the dentist should also change gloves after the removal)
  • Immediately cleaning your protective wear and face once the fillings are removed
  • Using room air purifiers

For a complete description of how to safely remove mercury amalgam, see this PDF created by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT). The proper procedure is also explained in the featured video. Here are several sources to help you locate a dentist trained in biological dentistry:

Avoid making the same mistake I did 20 years ago when I had all my amalgams removed by a competent dentist. Unfortunately, he was clueless about mercury toxicity and used no precautions and as a result I got kidney damage. Additionally, I had to remove all the crowns he put in because they were metal. It was a very expensive and health-damaging mistake.

I also suggest you get healthy BEFORE having your fillings removed, as you want your detoxification mechanisms optimized prior to removal. To remove mercury that has already accumulated in your body, I highly recommend reviewing my Mercury Detoxification Protocol, which details the things you can do right now to help rid your body of this toxin. If your mercury levels are seriously elevated, you should work with a knowledgeable health care practitioner to help you through the detoxification process.

Help Keep the Ball Rolling to Get Mercury Out of the Dentist's Office

Your voice is needed in order to bring about permanent change in the fight for mercury-free dentistry. We need to keep the momentum going between now and year's end. You must urge the FDA to heed the advice of its own scientists convened in December 2010 and the World Health Organization. To voice your opinion, contact Dr. Shuren at:

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, Director
Center for Devices, U.S. Food & Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave.
WO66-5431, Room 5442
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002
Phone: 301-796-5900
Fax: 301-847-8149 or 301-847-8109
Email: jeff.shuren@fda.hhs.gov

The following are Charlie Brown's recommended talking points for this contact:

  • Thank Dr. Shuren for agreeing to act on amalgam fillings this year.
  • Please end the use of amalgam immediately for children, pregnant women, and hypersensitive adults (as a minimum).
  • Please make sure every parent knows amalgam is mercury, not silver, by making warnings mandatory. Every consumer should be told the truth about what's going into their mouths, and their children's mouths.
  • Please follow WHO's lead and act now. In its 2011 report, the World Health Organization 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." It is time for FDA to act now, NOT an announcement that the FDA's decision will be postponed. We have irrefutable scientific evidence about the dangers of mercury amalgams. Your children are being subjected to harm now—they can't wait another year.

I also urge you to contribute to Consumers for Dental Choice. I strongly believe in their mission and their commitment to the Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry. They rely on public donations to complete this important mission. (Consumers for Dental Choice is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advocating mercury-free dentistry. Contributions are tax-deductible in the U.S.)

Donations can be made online or through the mail:

Also, for timely updates and information, please join Consumers for Dental Choice on Facebook.

Thank you for your help in keeping the ball rolling—help make 2011 a landmark year for your dental health!

Important Information Regarding Amalgam Removal

For those of you who have mercury fillings, I recommend that you have them removed … but avoid making the mistake I did nearly 20 years ago by having it done by a non-biological dentist. When you have these fillings removed you can be exposed to significant amounts of mercury vapors if the dentist doesn't know what he or she is doing. It's also for this reason that I strongly suggest you get healthy BEFORE having your fillings removed, as you want your detoxification mechanisms optimized prior to removal.

My struggles with my own teeth led me to learn about and embrace biological dentistry, also known as holistic or environmental dentistry. In a nutshell, biological dentistry views your teeth and gums as an integrated part of your entire body, and any medical treatments performed takes this fact into account. The primary aim of holistic dentistry is to resolve your dental problems while working in harmony with the rest of your body. Biological dentists are well aware of the dangers involved with toxic materials such as mercury fillings (aka amalgams). Some things that need to be done to keep you (and your dentist) safe during amalgam removal include:

  • Providing you with an alternative air source and instructing you not to breathe through your mouth
  • Using a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors
  • Putting a rubber dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins
  • Using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor
  • Washing your mouth out immediately after the fillings have been removed (the dentist should also change gloves after the removal)
  • Immediately cleaning your protective wear and face once the fillings are removed
  • Using room air purifiers

How to Find a Qualified Biological Dentist

Knowledgeable biological dentists can be hard to come by, so start your search by asking a friend, relative, neighbor, or inquire at your local health food store. The following links can also help you to find a mercury-free, biological dentist:

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