By Dr. Mercola
With Consumers for Dental Choice
Dental amalgams have been in use since the American Civil War. They are an anachronism that has been perpetuated by dental industry patents, and there's a conspiracy of silence that seeks to keep the 75 percent of Americans who are ignorant about that fact that amalgam fillings are actually 50 percent mercury.
As stated by Charlie Brown, who founded the Consumers for Dental Choice in 1996:
"The only way amalgam could be marketed was to hide the mercury. The only way you could hide the mercury is to have a coordinated effort to make sure that nobody blew the whistle.
At the start of our movement, we confronted an iron triangle; three major forces: The American Dental Association that profit from a system of consumer ignorance; The Food and Drug Administration that sits in the hip pocket of the American Dental Association… and the state dental boards, who were the enforcers who told dentists, "You have to be silent."
The American Dental Association had a gag rule and said, "Don't say the M word. Don't tell people about the mercury; don't say that it's toxin, or there will be consequences." The consequences were the state dental boards pulling licenses of dentists all through the 1990s and threatening to pull the licenses of many more.
Fortunately in the last 10 years nearly half of all US dentists have recognized the dangers of amalgams and have stopped using them in their practice. But the remaining 50 percent of dentists still use them, and that currently accounts for between 240-300 tons of mercury entering the market every year. In the United States, dental offices are the second largest user of mercury – and this mercury eventually ends up in our environment by one pathway or another.
Did You Know?...
Dental amalgam can cause far-reaching problems, such as:
- Exposure to mercury, the most toxic and more vaporous of the heavy metals, can harm your kidneys, and permanently damage your child's developing neurological system, and even kill your unborn child in the womb.
- To implant amalgam, a dentist drills out healthy tooth matter in order to carve the crater necessary for amalgam placement – a primitive process that irreversibly weakens tooth structure. With a damaged tooth structure and with a metal-based filling that expands and contracts with temperature changes, teeth with amalgam are much more likely to crack years later, necessitating additional dental work.
- Amalgam is a workplace hazard, especially for young female dental workers who experience an elevated rate of reproductive failures.
- 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.
Why would a primitive, pre-Civil War polluting product that is 50 percent mercury and cracks teeth still be going into your mouth?
Amalgam was introduced in the Civil War era by the new American Dental Association, which won a political battle with the physicians of the mouth, who said using mercury in oral health care is malpractice. Florida dentist James Hardy, in his book Mercury Free, refers to the creation of amalgam and the creation of the American Dental Association as the "twin-birth."
Why Do Half of All Dentists Still Use Mercury Amalgam?
We now know the risks, so why do half of dentists continue to use the filling material used by their great-grandfathers?
Is it the price?
The alternatives to amalgam are comparably priced – or even less expensive. Amalgams cost more than glass ionomers, which can be applied via a mercury-free technique called Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART). ART does not require drilling; only hand instruments, and is virtually painless.
Amalgam also cost the same as composite fillings (also called resin) for smaller cavities, although composite can cost a few bucks more for large cavities. But when you add the horrid environmental and health catastrophe caused by amalgam, of course, amalgam's cost to society is much higher...
The answer is: Profits!
Amalgams are quick and easy. Dentists make more money per chair per day implanting mercury. For factory-style dentistry, where the teeth represent dollar signs instead of part of a human being, dentists drill, fill, and bill. The term "drill, fill, and bill" is a joke aspiring dentists learn in dental school. Only the joke is on us and our children: they count their money, and we have a vaporous neurotoxin implanted an inch from our brains or our children's brains.
And of course, since amalgam damages tooth structure and cracks teeth, pro-mercury dentists will continue to profit from amalgam long after its initial placement. Teeth with amalgam require more dental work in the long term. So for the pro-mercury half of dentists, amalgam is the gift that keeps on giving.
How Can Pro-Mercury Dentists Compete with Toxic-Free Dentists?
The pro-mercury dentists' trade group, the American Dental Association, has pulled every lever with Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, the state dental boards and the corporate media to cover up amalgam's mercury.
- First, the ADA popularized the deceptive term "silver fillings," so consumers would think amalgam is made mainly of silver (actually, it has twice as much mercury as silver).
- Second, it mounted a no-holds-barred campaign to silence competitors and critics of 19th century dentistry, especially the courageous dentists who realized their leadership was so fundamentally in error.
According to its own self-description, the American Dental Association appears focused more on promoting products – and getting paid handsomely to do so – than in promoting its dentist members. At the bottom of its news releases, the ADA has frequently written:
"The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing more than 155,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer and professional products. For more information about the ADA, visit the Association's Web site at www.ada.org."
Of the five sentences, one is about members, and three about the ADA's product endorsement system. The "ADA Seal of Acceptance" is a pay-to-play system in which companies pay the ADA to secure their endorsement. By contrast, the American Medical Association will not do pay-to-play endorsements of products; it is considered unethical.
The ADA owns two patents on amalgam, patent numbers 4,018,600 and 4,078,921. They have expired, but while they were in effect the ADA went to incredible lengths to wipe out mercury-free dentistry and quash dissent from the emerging critics of mercury-based dentistry.
The Role of the American Dental Association
How does the ADA keep pro-mercury dentists in business – and keep profits rolling in for the amalgam makers?
- The "silver fillings" deception
Gold fillings are called gold because they are made of gold. Seizing on the comparison, the ADA brochures promoting mercury fillings called them "silver fillings." The ADA claims the term means "silver-colored," but who are they fooling? In my dictionary, the first definition of "silver" is the element. The color is the fourth definition, behind the element, medium of exchange, coins, and eating utensils.
Consumers for Dental Choice, with its Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry, fought back against the "silver fillings" deception. In California these advocates launched the term "say the M word," which led to fact sheets on amalgam in that state and several other states and cities. These fact sheets, which dentists are required to hand their patients, inform the public that amalgam is mercury.
- The gag rule
When its amalgam patents were in effect, the ADA used its power to block the emergence of mercury-free dentistry by adopting a rule of conduct prohibiting dentists from discussing mercury with their patients:
Yes, the ADA said it is unethical for a dentist to tell the truth to his patients!
"Based on available scientific data, the ADA has determined that the removal of amalgam restorations from the non-allergic patient for the alleged purpose of removing toxic substances from the body, when such treatment is performed solely at the recommendation or suggestion of the dentist, is improper and unethical."
Thanks to an extraordinary campaign by Consumers for Dental Choice, the gag rule is now just about defunct. Working with state lawmakers, with civil liberties organizations, with state Attorneys General (Charlie Brown, head of the consumer group, used to be one), and with an outraged citizenry, the movement for Mercury-Free Dentistry succeeded in the legislatures, in the courts, and in the courts of public opinions to restore free speech rights to dentists.
How about the political process? We do have friends in Congress, Republicans like Congressman Dan Burton and Senator Mike Enzi, and Democrats like Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Congressman Gregory Meeks. But they are few and far between.
The ADA has been particularly devious in the halls of Congress. It doesn't instruct its minions in Congress – members from both political parties – to write bills, conduct hearings, nor even make speeches. Instead, the ADA buys silence and inaction from Members of Congress. Sound familiar? It was the same tactic used by Big Tobacco for several decades.
At the state level, it's the same; in some state capitals, the ADA has had the single largest political action committee. The tactic is the same: Do nothing, say nothing, and cash the PAC money.
- Strong-arming the children of America
In the Maine legislature, money is not king. The state has fair practices that limit outside money and create a level-playing field for unfunded candidates. Unable to buy their way into power, the ADA resorted to outright strong-arming. A bill was gaining momentum in the Maine Legislature to phase out amalgam. The ADA struck back, threatening to deny treatment for Maine children if their dentists could not use their favorite filling material. If amalgam were banned, the ADA threatened:
Several years later, the ADA's Pennsylvania chapter pulled the same power play against children with disabilities. A fact sheet law in the City of Philadelphia meant parents are now made aware of amalgam's horrid health risks to their children. In inner-city clinics, parents were insisting on mercury-free dentistry – the same as parents do in the affluent areas. But to the Pennsylvania Dental Association, inner-city parents were supposed to take the crumbs their dentists offered: mercury fillings or no fillings.
"The result will be treatment delayed, treatment denied, and treatment never being sought. That is not a situation the dentists of Maine, the United States, or our policymakers can be willing to accept."
A dental association leader was demanding that parents of children with disabilities sign a release allowing him to put mercury fillings in their children; when they refused, he denied all treatment. No tooth cleanings. Nothing... Suburban parents might go to a dentist down the street, but for inner-city minority parents of children with disabilities, finding a dentist is not easy – and this dentist knew it. Incredibly, the Pennsylvania Dental Association – which claims to support choice for children in the suburbs – endorsed the position of this dentist.
Fortunately, the story did not end there. This callous power play endorsed by the Pennsylvania Dental Association – denying dental care for children with disabilities unless they agreed to mercury fillings – caught the attention of the disability rights community. The Pennsylvania Governor's Advisory Commission on Disabilities enacted a resolution condemning this ADA chapter.
What Can You Do to Stop the Use of Amalgam?
During this Mercury-Free Dentistry Awareness Week, I urge you to help spread the word and help educate others by sharing this article with your social networks. Together, we can END the use of toxic mercury in dentistry.
Charlie Brown, who runs Consumers for Dental Choice, is headed to Nairobi in October to lead a worldwide delegation participating in the world mercury treaty negotiations. With him will be a team of dentists, consumers, attorneys, and scientists fighting to get amalgam into that treaty. With the world deciding whether we continue allowing mercury in children's mouths, much is at stake. Here's what you can do in your nation or state:
Americans: Our #1 problem is the Food and Drug Administration, which has partnered with the American Dental Association to cover up the mercury, to make you think you are getting silver instead of mercury in your mouth. The FDA intentionally conceals the warnings about amalgam deep in its regulation -- so parents will never see them. On its website, the FDA gives dentists the green light to continue to deceive consumers with the term "silver fillings"
"Americans are ready for the end of amalgam." This was the theme of the testimony to the U.S. Department of State on August 18 by former West Virginia state Senator Charlotte Pritt. Yes, Americans are ready. But FDA is not. So let's send them a message.
Nine months ago, FDA scientists advised the agency to disclose the mercury to all patients and parents, and to stop amalgam for children and pregnant women. Yet FDA sits – sits actually in the pocket of the American Dental Association – ignoring its own scientists.
Please write the Director of FDA's Center for Devices, Jeff Shuren, firstname.lastname@example.org Ask Dr Shuren why FDA continues to ignore the scientists and covers up the mercury 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 Admin.
10903 New Hampshire Ave.
WO66-5431, Room 5442
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002
Californians: Dr. Shuren is coming to San Francisco for a "town meeting" on September 22. We urge Northern Californians to attend. It will go from 8 am to 12 noon, at the Embassy Suites Hotel, San Francisco Airport (telephone 650.589.3400)
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 email@example.com
Australians: Your government, Aussies, is now in last place on the mercury treaty, asking the world to throw in the towel instead of working to phase out dental mercury. A great new group has started, Australians for Mercury-Free Dentistry, led by dentist Lisa Matriste and consumer activist Anna Priest. We urge you to go to its website and join: http://www.mercuryfreedentistry.com.au/
Folks worldwide: If you aren't on that list, there's plenty to do – for example, Dominique Bally, an outstanding young advocate from the Ivory Coast, runs the Amalgam-Free Africa Campaign. If you want to help somewhere, anywhere, and there's nothing on the list above for you, write Charlie Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumers for Dental Choice is working to protect your health – and the health of your children – all around the world. Charged with this important mission at state and local, national, and international levels, Consumers for Dental Choice would appreciate your help!
Please consider a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advocating mercury-free dentistry.
Donations can be made online at http://www.toxicteeth.org/donate.cfm. Checks can be mailed to:
Consumers for Dental Choice
316 F St., N.E., Suite 210
Washington DC 20002
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Thank you for supporting mercury-free dentistry!