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Dental Breakthrough - May Save Thousands of Lives

Story at-a-glance -

  • There is irrefutable evidence that mercury fillings (amalgams) pose a serious health risk to humans, especially children and pregnant women, yet they are still used by half of all American dentists
  • Great progress has been made in 2011 on the mercury amalgam issue as a result of widely publicized town meetings in three states: Texas, Florida and California
  • According to Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, the FDA will make an announcement by the end of the year about revising their stance on mercury amalgams, possibly including a ban for certain high-risk populations
  • In order to keep the momentum going, please contact Dr. Jeffrey Shuren and voice your concerns immediately, using the talking points included

By Dr. Mercola

A great deal of progress has been made this year toward ridding the dental industry of dangerous mercury-containing amalgams.

For example, Consumers for Dental Choice recently reported that:

"On October 10, the City Council of Malibu, California passed a resolution supporting "national and worldwide efforts to reduce anthropogenic [man-made] sources of mercury to the environment." 

Specifically, the city endorsed "efforts by UNEP [the United Nations Environmental Programme] to adopt an international treaty to phase out each of the above five major mercury pollutants":  batteries, electric switches and relays, measuring devices, mercury-containing lamps…and dental amalgam. 

Malibu is the third California city to call for the phase-out of dental amalgam, following the resolution of the city council of Costa Mesa and the proclamation by the Mayor of Santa Ana." 

According to Consumers for Dental Choice, the World Health Organization ("WHO") also just released its long-awaited updated and finalized report on dental amalgam.  In Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration, WHO urges "a switch in use of dental materials" away from amalgam, stating that:

"[F]or many reasons, restorative materials alternative to dental amalgam are desirable." 

But that's not all!

As a result of enormous public pressure from dentists, health professionals and consumers, the FDA has also promised to make an announcement by year's end of its decision about whether or not to warn the public of the dangers of dental amalgam, and possibly even restrict its use.

A series of 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, the 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, while taking money from Coca-Cola and other companies whose products promote the formation of cavities.

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, but your voice is needed in order to bring about permanent change.

First Base: Dallas, Texas on March 10

The first of the town meetings occurred in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, in March 2011. According to Charlie Brown (former attorney general and president of the World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry), the Texas town meeting generated a surge of long-overdue press coverage about dental amalgam on major Dallas television stations and newspapers.

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, the presiding FDA official in the dental amalgam issue, was presented with testimony from, among others, Dr. Bill Glaros, the former president of the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine. In response, Dr. Shuren acknowledged the FDA scientific panel's conclusion that certain populations, such as pregnant women and young children, might be "more sensitive" than others to the adverse effects of dental amalgam. The following statement certainly indicates the door is open, but whether or not the FDA will actually walk through it remains to be seen Dr. Shuren stated:

"We may decide to change our current regulation, and that could include changing the status of dental amalgam, which means it comes off the market or has other controls on it, or we may decide to leave things as they are."

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Second Base: Orlando, Florida on May 5

Floridians continued the momentum by turning out en masse for the next town meeting, outraged over the FDA's failure to protect children from mercury fillings. The event generated front-page news from coast to coast, even prompting an article from the Los Angeles Times.

As in Texas, with the press in his face, Dr. Shuren was compelled to answer to the FDA's inaction on amalgam. After all, it is far easier to evade questions about the health hazards of amalgams when behind the protective walls of a government office than it is in front of television cameras. Dr. Shuren told the Orlando Sentinel that he would like the FDA to make a decision this year, but it (FDA) would have to reconsider the scientific and legal issues.

It was hardly the promise of regulatory overhaul, but it was more than the FDA had been willing to say in Washington. Consumers two… amalgams one. But consumers would soon advance their cause even further as dentists turned up in droves for the third town meeting, this time in San Francisco.

Third Base: San Francisco, California on September 22

The highlight of the California meeting was testimony by Anita Vasquez Tibau, grassroots director of Consumers for Dental Choice, who detailed amalgam's devastating impact on the Spanish-speaking community. Vasquez Tibau assailed Shuren with his own words. In an exchange with the European Union regarding device regulation last February, Shuren sparked an international scrap when he commented that European patients may be "guinea pigs" for medical devices due to inadequate government oversight, and added, "We don't use our people as guinea pigs in the U.S."

Oops… except, we do—a point that Anita Vasquez Tibau was quick to bring up.

While holding up a photograph of a Latino kindergartner whose smile showed the tragedy of a mouthful of mercury fillings, Vazquez Tibau reminded Shuren that the FDA itself admits amalgam can cause neurological damage in young children as their immature systems are more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of mercury vapor. She also reminded him of the FDA's statement about the lack of evidence of amalgam's safety for children under age six, and then asked him to stop treating Latino children like "guinea pigs." Dr. Shuren responded that he intended to make an announcement of the FDA's position by the end of the year. So the clock is ticking.

Now it's Your Turn

We need to keep the momentum going between now and year's end. You must urge the FDA to heed the advice convened by its own scientists in December 2010. 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: [email protected]

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.
  • Kicking the can down the road is not acceptable. It is time for a decision 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!