By Dr. Mercola
I strongly encourage you to watch the new documentary film Mercury Undercover, which exposes just how far those in power will go to prevent you from learning the truth about mercury contamination from dental amalgam – all in the name of money.
Dental amalgam is a primitive, pre-Civil War product that is 50 percent mercury, still commonly used in dental fillings.
Half of all North American dentists still use amalgam for its quick and easy profits, then pass the bill for damages on to the rest of us – damages to health, as well as to the environment.
Mercury Undercover discusses the mountain of evidence about mercury contamination, as reported by doctors, scientists, environmental experts and mercury-poisoned survivors.
The disturbing issues brought to light in this film will make you think twice before ordering a "catch-of-the-day" or planning your next dental procedure.
American dentistry's 150-year affair with mercury is a tale of profits first, people last.
Coal Plants and Dentists May be Accelerating Wildlife Extinctions
Coal generates 54 percent of the electricity in the United States and is the single largest cause of air pollution. Coal fired power plants are also the number one source of environmental mercury pollution. Mercury is extremely tenacious once in the air, water and soil, and levels gradually increase over time, as it accumulates.
Each coal plant discharges an average of 170 pounds of mercury into the air each year, along with other pollutants. There are about 600 coal plants in the United States.1 So, if you do the math, you will discover that coal plants in the U.S. are releasing about 51 TONS of mercury into the environment each year. Just one gram of mercury can make the fish in a 20-acre lake unfit for consumption for a year.
A study by Island Restoration Network found dangerous mercury levels in 68 percent of swordfish, high enough to cause harm to wildlife. Recent evidence indicates mercury is now present in all fish. Other studies have demonstrated high levels of mercury in sensitive and endangered species across marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems, indicating that mercury pollution may be a significant factor in species population reduction.
The second largest mercury polluters in this country are dental practices. As a result of their continued use of mercury amalgam fillings, another 29.7 tons of mercury is discharged into the air, water and soil each year from installation and removal of amalgams.
Don't let the "cheap" price of these fillings fool you. When environmental cleanup costs are included, dental amalgams are actually the most expensive type of dental fillings on the market. Besides its toxic effects to wildlife, mercury is terribly harmful to humans as well.
"A Biochemical Train Wreck in Your Body"
Boyd Haley PhD, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at University of Kentucky, said in the film that mercury is a "biochemical train wreck in your body." Mercury causes your cell membranes to become leaky and inhibits key enzymes your body needs for energy production and toxin removal. Mercury doesn't kill you quickly like cyanide… it kills you slowly and insidiously.
About 75 percent of adults have dangerous "silver" fillings. There is approximately 1,000 mg of mercury in the typical "silver" filling. This is nearly one million times more mercury than is present in contaminated sea food. Most people don't realize that the mercury amalgams slowly release mercury vapor. Every time you chew, mercury vapor is released and quickly finds its way into your bloodstream, where it causes oxidative processes in your tissues.
Oxidation is one of the main reasons you develop disease, as well as the primary reason you age. Oxidation in your body leads to inflammation, including inflammation of the lining of your blood vessels. When this occurs, your LDL levels increase as your body attempts to "patch" those damaged vessel walls with cholesterol. LDL is a carrier of cholesterol. This is why people with mercury toxicity have damaged blood vessels, and elevated cholesterol and LDL levels.
However, oxidation and toxicity can lead to much more than just elevated lipid levels. Mercury in your body can result in a variety of serious neurological, immunological, and endocrinological problems. Mercury not only fuels the flames of inflammation, it also hampers your body's ability to detoxify itself, which makes you even sicker. Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other neurological diseases have been linked to mercury exposure. Research shows that traces of mercury can cause the type of nerve damage you usually see in Alzheimer's disease.
Mercury is MORE Toxic to Your Body than Any Other Heavy Metal
Recent studies of the effects of various toxic heavy metals on your brain – including aluminum, lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury – reveal that mercury is by far the MOST toxic. No others even come close! This is because of mercury's interaction with sulfur-containing proteins that are critical to your brain function.
Many scientists believe Alzheimer's impairs communication and coordination between cells. You have 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, in your brain, and these neurons make up an intricate communication/information network that requires a great deal of energy and waste removal. These processes require a large amount of fuel and oxygen. Mercury can seriously impair these important and complex neurological processes.
Science is now telling us that mercury may very well be a significant factor underlying much chronic disease, and one about which the majority of physicians are completely unaware. It doesn't take much mercury to cause significant stresses in your body.
Sadly, many people with mercury toxicity are sick for MANY years, often decades, and have consulted dozens of physicians who fail to identify the real cause of their illness and suffering. Often these people have a constellation of seemingly unrelated symptoms. They are given bottle after bottle of pills, which merely mask some of the symptoms (at best) and create new imbalances within their bodies,without ever addressing the underlying cause of the problem. Not surprisingly, they fail to get better.
Can you get sick from just ONE mercury filling? Absolutely.
Even if you have only one, you're getting years of daily "dosing" mercury vapor from that filling, which adds to the other sources of mercury and other toxic substances to which you are regularly exposed. Once your immune system takes any sort of a hit from an illness or stress or trauma, it may no longer be able to keep up with the assault of ongoing mercury exposure.
Mercury Vapor Sneaks its Way from Your Tooth to Your Brain
Mercury vapor is the form of mercury most easily absorbed by your body. Sadly, dentists are still taught in dental school that the mercury in amalgams is "bound" with the other metals and doesn't leak, which is why half of them still believe it's safe. Yet, you can MEASURE the mercury vapor coming off the tip of the root of an amalgam-filled tooth. The fact that mercury vapor can be measured at the tip of a tooth's root is absolute proof that these amalgam fillings can and DO leak.
Once released from an amalgam-filled tooth, mercury in the form of nonreactive mercury vapor goes from your mouth to your lungs, then to your brain via your bloodstream. A common enzyme in your body called catalase converts (oxidizes) mercury vapor into the "Hg2plus" form, which is VERY toxic, and traps it inside your cells. Once here, it is very difficult for your body to remove it.
Experts say the mercury from amalgam is highly absorbed and gets into all parts of your body, including your brain and bone marrow. Every time you chew, mercury vapor is being liberated from those fillings and absorbed, potentially causing your health to decline over time.
Why is this Toxic Product STILL on the American Market?
Amalgam fillings contain more mercury than any other product sold in America. And they are highly profitable to dentists, which makes them that much harder to remove from the marketplace. Dentists can install amalgam fillings much faster than the primary alternative, which is composite fillings. Wherever healthcare budgets are tight, people in need of fillings are given amalgams. Low-income people, people in third-world countries, and even our soldiers get mercury fillings – even the pregnant ones – because they "cost less" to install. But with all that is known about the dangers of amalgam, why hasn't it been removed from the market altogether?
What is the political pressure that stands in the way? This is a very good question, and one that has NOT been answered by the FDA, according to Charlie Brown, founder of Consumers for Dental Choice. Charlie Brown has been a champion in the battle to get mercury banned from dentistry.
The FDA Monarchy Wants to Keep You Sick
The FDA Commissioner is described in the film as, essentially, a 15th Century monarch with absolute power – there is no other power within FDA to check her judgment. She is the ultimate decision maker. Therefore, there is no protection for the public. Tragically, the FDA has ignored the advice of their own scientists and established no labeling to warn consumers – including pregnant women and children – about the dangers of mercury amalgams.
The drug industry, which largely controls both medical and dental industries, has spent one billion dollars lobbying the government over the last decade – 100 million dollars per year on average. One could rightfully suspect these influences have stood in the way of progress in the battle against dental amalgam.
Many members of Congress protect their reelection first, before protecting public health, afraid to take any corrective actions that would buck the system for fear of stepping on some "very big toes." They don't want to offend the medical establishment because that would injure their campaign funding. The United States falls behind many other countries on the mercury issue. Amalgams have been banned in several countries, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and largely in Japan.
The Mercury Undercover page suggests the following specific goals and objectives that need to be addressed in the overall mercury plan:
- Disclose mercury and end the "silver deception"; stop the ADA/dental board gag rule
- Inform consumers and dentists of the massive environmental harm caused by amalgam
- Make dentists pay for the massive harm to the environment; this would make the amalgam cost-prohibitive
- Ban amalgam for children and pregnant women
- Introduce ART (Atraumatic restorative treatment), a safe, low-cost dental filling material that requires only hand instruments to install, and can even be done by a dental hygienist
- End amalgam primacy in insurance plans
How Does Your Dentist Respond to the M-Word?
Half of all dentists in North America have broken away from the pack and stopped using amalgam, but we have not yet reached the tipping point for the other half to follow suit. Most dentists who continue to use amalgam really don't understand that what they're doing is harmful. Dentists don't want to fathom that they've ever done anything to hurt their patients, or question the training they worked so hard to get.
We have made a fundamental mistake – one of many – in our healthcare system by teaching physicians and dentists that it's not safe to think outside the box. Meaning, they fear attack by government, insurance companies, lawyers, and their own medical boards if they don't stick to a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. And that type of fear-based practice can lead to inappropriate and poor standards of care.
If your dentist refuses to abandon his or her use of amalgam, you may want to consider consulting another dentist. There are a growing number of mercury-free dentists, and dentists who offer a more holistic or "biological" approach.
There's nothing that has the potential to release more mercury vapor directly into your body than removing an amalgam filling, which is why you should never have your amalgam removed by a dentist who hasn't been expertly trained in this procedure. It requires isolation of the mercury-filled tooth from the rest of the oral cavity using a rubber dam, as well as vacuums in and around the mouth to capture mercury while the extraction is taking place.
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 breath 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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Take Action Now
Consumers for Dental Choice is leading the charge against mercury fillings with its worldwide Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry. Americans are ready for the end of amalgam, but the FDA is not. So you can send them a message.
The Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry outlines specific actions you can take on local, state, and national levels. I recommend visiting their website, as well as providing them financial support if you possibly can. Your tax-deductible donation to Consumers for Dental Choice can be made online here.
- Ask your dentist to switch to mercury-free dentistry.
- If you work for a company that covers dental fillings, ask if they will cover composites or ART or other alternatives to amalgam.
- If you know your Mayor or a member of your City or Town Council, consider asking if they will do what some California cities are doing: pass a resolution calling for an end to amalgam and a request that dentists in your town stop using amalgam.
- Californians: In Southern California, Consumers for Dental Choice is organizing a city-by-city attack on amalgam – and needs volunteers. If you wish to help with the grassroots work of organizing for city council hearings, gathering petitions, and telephoning, volunteer by writing to email@example.com.
- Australians: A great new group has started, Australians for Mercury-Free Dentistry, led by dentist Lisa Matriste and consumer activist Anna Priest.
- All Others: Write to Charlie Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask what you can do – there are plenty of suggestions he can give!
- Please write to the Director of FDA's Center for Devices, Jeff Shuren, email@example.com (phone 301-796-5900).
Ask Dr. Shuren why FDA continues to ignore their scientists and conceal the mercury issue from American parents and consumers. Ask when FDA is going to get in step with the world on mercury.
Dr. Jeff Shuren, Director
Center for Devices, U.S. Food & Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave.
WO66-5431, Room 5442
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002