By Dr. Mercola
The right of every patient to make decisions about their own bodies — including what filling material is implanted in their teeth — is enshrined in laws, policies and resolutions throughout the world.
In the video below Charlie Brown, executive director of Consumers for Dental Choice and former attorney general for West Virginia, explains the importance of choosing a mercury-free dentist.
This right is particularly important when it comes to making decisions about your teeth because amalgam dental fillings are 50 percent mercury — a toxin that causes problems for the following:
• Your health: Dental amalgam releases neurotoxic mercury vapor into your body. Children, the unborn and the hypersensitive are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of mercury.
As if that's not bad enough, as a pre-Civil War concoction, amalgam requires the removal of healthy tooth tissue, weakens tooth structure and could therefore crack teeth — leading to much higher dental bills later.
• Your environment: Dental amalgam is the largest amount of mercury in use in the United States — more than light bulbs, or thermometers, or batteries.
Most of this mercury ends up polluting our air, soil and water, where it can contaminate the fish we eat. Mercury pollution can cause health problems, especially for children and the unborn.
• Your dental office: Because mercury is the most vaporous of the heavy metals, dental amalgam pollutes the dental workplaces full of toxic air — which exposes dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and front office staff to eight to 10 hours of dangerous breathing every work day.
A clinic where the dentists regularly place amalgam is a hazardous workplace — but whose hazards are generally left unexplained to the dental staffs, even the pregnant women, which can and does have serious and horrible consequences to the reproductive systems of young women.
How Your Right to Choose Mercury-Free Dentistry Is Denied
The American Dental Association (ADA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other amalgam hucksters are working to deny your right to choose mercury-free dentistry. Over the years, we've seen these pro-mercury forces use dirty tactics like:
• That "silver fillings" deception: Calling amalgam that is 50 percent mercury "silver fillings" is a blatantly deceptive marketing practice. As a result, about one-fourth of Americans, quite understandably, think amalgam's main component is silver, not mercury.
• Mercury fillings or no fillings: Insurance companies, Medicaid and other government programs try to strong-arm you to get amalgam even though it is a primitive, pre-Civil War pollutant that damages teeth.
What commonly happens is this: if you accept amalgam, your dental plan will pay for the whole thing, but if you insist on mercury-free fillings in back teeth, then you have to pay more out-of-pocket.
Medicaid, Indian Health, the Army, the V.A. and the prisons — many times they force the cruel choice to families of mercury fillings — or no fillings at all.
• Harassing mercury-free dentists: For years, the dental boards punished dentists for advertising, advising and practicing mercury-free dentistry.
As a result, many dentists were afraid to abandon amalgam — or at least to advertise that they did not use it — and many consumers did not know where to turn for mercury-free dental care.
Thank goodness that Charlie Brown and his legal team sent that "gag rule" to the ash heap of American history. The dental boards have backed off enforcing it in the U.S. The news is not good, though, across the Atlantic: the United Kingdom dental regulators continue to try to gag British mercury-free dentists.
Consumers for Dental Choice Protects Your Rights
Mercury-Free Dentistry Week, August 21 to 28, is more than a celebration. It is when I ask you to dig into your pocket to keep the progress going. This week I will match you every dollar (or Canadian dollar, or pound or Euro) that you donate to Consumers for Dental Choice up to $100,000.
For 20 years, Consumers for Dental Choice has been working to protect your right to choose mercury-free dentistry. When Consumers for Dental Choice was founded back in 1996, things were very grim. Dentists were tyrannized about the mercury issue; only 3 percent would admit to being mercury-free.
A Mercury Triangle— the FDA, the ADA and the State dental boards — conspired to make sure that consumers were told that amalgam is "silver." Hardly any outside dentistry had any idea that dentists were plowing our mouths full of mercury.
Along came Consumers for Dental Choice, a nonprofit group founded by the late Bob Jones, a Colorado airline pilot, and Sue Ann Taylor, a Georgia journalist and media specialist; to this day, Sue Ann is president of Consumers for Dental Choice.
They found Charlie Brown and introduced him to the late pioneer of mercury-free dentistry, Dr. Hal Huggins. Hal asked Charlie, "How would you like to help a billion people?" Hal did not need to ask twice. Consumers for Dental Choice, and the cause of mercury-free dentistry, were off to the races.
Charlie and his tiny team assembled consumers, dentists, environmentalists and advocacy groups to work exclusively on ending the use of mercury amalgam dental fillings.
We've made a lot of progress since 1996 — but the war is not yet won. Here are some of the battles Consumers for Dental Choice is fighting to protect your right to choose mercury-free dentistry.
Getting the Word Out About Mercury
It is well established that raising public awareness about amalgam's mercury content and mercury-free alternatives — via brochures and other means — cuts down amalgam use.
When people know amalgam is mercury, they don't want it. And that's why the FDA, the ADA and pro-mercury dentists opposed our projects to get regulations requiring dentists to give patients amalgam fact sheets in California, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire.
Consumers for Dental Choice is fighting the battle to get information about amalgam's mercury into the hands of consumers at all levels:
• States: Many pro-mercury dentists in the localities requiring fact sheets resist the law by refusing to hand out the fact sheets. Most recently, a survey shows that amalgam-using dentists are failing to display this brochure.
The minority-run nonprofit group, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice (CCEJ), a unique state organization that brings together environmental and social justice issues, organized community volunteers to visit almost 400 dental offices in the state's three major cities: Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven.
They discovered that dentists invariably do not display the amalgam brochure in their waiting rooms, nor do their front office staff offer it to patients — in violation of state law.
They found, too, that the state government does not lift a finger to enforce the law, signaling to the pro-mercury dentists that concealment of the facts about mercury is OK.
The pro-mercury dentists and the state of Connecticut partnered to evade and flaunt this law establishing consumer rights.
Consumers for Dental Choice and CCEJ exposed these law violations by the State of Connecticut in the new report "Mum About Mercury" — they confronted the top brass of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on the doorsteps of its building, presenting not only the report but a letter signed by the state NAACP and numerous other civil rights organizations.
On September 20, a delegation of civil rights and environmental group will meet with that agency's commissioner to insist that the law be enforced.
• Federal: FDA refuses to provide dental consumers with direct information — i.e., patient labeling — about amalgam's mercury content. In its 2009 dental amalgam rule, FDA goes so far as to illogically claim that providing this information directly to consumers would somehow prevent dentists and patients from discussing treatment options. FDA's role as protector of mercury fillings instead of regulator of mercury fillings was exposed in the report "Measurably Misleading".
Consumers for Dental Choice filed a petition calling on FDA to require patient labeling for amalgam, which would include at least information about amalgam's mercury, risks and mercury-free alternatives. The Mercury Policy Project, an aggressive force for a mercury-free world based in Vermont, brought together the major environmental groups to ask Secretary of State John Kerry: Why did you sign the Minamata Convention on Mercury, then let FDA trash it?
• International: The Minamata Convention on Mercury requires that each party shall promote and facilitate provision to the public of available information on alternatives to mercury-added products, such as amalgam. The United Nations Environmental Programme has provided international guidance for each nation on how to transition to mercury-free dentistry in the 2016 publication "Lessons from Countries Phasing Down Dental Amalgam Use."
This report urges each nation to "rais[e] public awareness" that amalgam is mercury and that mercury-free alternatives are available. Nigeria, with the largest economy in Africa, has published and distributed an excellent fact sheet for consumers, a project done in cooperation with the environmental NGO Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADev Nigeria).
Challenging the Mercury Pushers
As many people find out when they go to get a filling, their insurance will not pay for mercury-free fillings like composite. Many insurers claim that composite fillings, which happen to be white, are just cosmetic — and not essential for protecting our teeth, our health and our environment. So, they restrict the use of mercury-free fillings and promote amalgam in many ways, some more subtle than others. Here are some of the biggest offenders pushing mercury fillings unto consumers today:
• Insurance companies: Sometimes these dental insurance plans only pay for composite in front teeth, or they'll only partially pay for composite, or they won't pay for composite at all. So the vast majority of consumers — 75 percent, according to a 2014 Zogby poll — want their dental insurance plans to pay for mercury-free dental fillings, but insurance companies are refusing to respond to their customers.
Consumers for Dental Choice has developed tools; see Demand Your Choice to help you and your dentist challenge your dental insurance company's decision to deny you your right to choose mercury-free dental care. Now is the time to insist on mercury-free dentistry, and to insist that your insurer end its bait-and-switch system to pressure you either to accept mercury fillings or pay up.
• State Medicaid: State Medicaid programs commonly either prohibit the use of mercury-free fillings for molar teeth (the back teeth), forcing low-income individuals to choose between mercury fillings and no dental care at all, or allow a choice but don't let consumers know it. Oregon is an example of the latter. An outstanding public servant in Oregon, Commissioner Mary Starrett of Yamhill County, has mounted a campaign to compel disclosure of that choice to parents in Medicaid families.
In Connecticut, it's worse: the Dannel Malloy Administration is so intent on forcing a "mercury fillings or no fillings" policy to shovel money to the pro-mercury dentists, that it (1) booted mercury-free dentists out of the Medicaid program, and (2) forces adults to get mercury fillings or no fillings. Shame on Governor Malloy!
Consumers for Dental Choice is working with Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice to take on the state's pro-mercury Medicaid policy. The nation's premier environmental law firm, Earthjustice, wrote the Governor to warn that his mercury-fillings-or-no-fillings policy is illegal under federal law. A standoff in the Nutmeg State looms.
• Federal programs: The U.S. government is one of the largest single users of amalgam in the world. From the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Pentagon to the Bureau of Prisons System, the U.S. is purchasing, promoting and pushing mercury fillings onto people who, given a choice, would undoubtedly want mercury-free dentistry. Consumers for Dental Choice is challenging the federal government to shape up its act.
Partnering with a California-based Native American NGO International Indian Treaty Council, Consumers for Dental Choice filed a petition calling on the Secretary of Interior (who runs the Bureau of Indian Affairs) and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (who runs the Indian Health Service) to end the use of dental mercury in Indian Health Service clinics and on tribal lands. A dialogue has begun.
The theme of Mercury-Free Dentistry Week is for North Americans — and every consumer and every parent globally — to demand mercury-free dentistry. If you want the campaign to stand up to the bully insurance companies, the arrogant federal government and the state bureaucrats, then it's time to join me and help Consumers for Dental Choice. Your dollars are doubled because I am matching every single dollar donated (up to the first $100,000).