Negative Impacts of Dental Mercury Surpass Those of Alternatives

Negative Impacts of Dental Mercury Surpass Those of Alternatives

Story at-a-glance -

  • A new report from the Health Care Research Collaborative has ruled that the impacts of mercury in dental fillings on human health and the environment far outweigh those posed by safer alternative materials
  • This echoes findings from the World Health Organization (WHO), which, in its final report on dental amalgam, also took a stance against the use of mercury in dentistry, urging "a switch in use of dental materials" away from amalgam”
  • Mercury vapor from the amalgams passes readily through cell membranes, across the blood-brain barrier, and into your central nervous system, where it causes immunological, neurological, and even psychological problems; it also poses a significant environmental burden
  • Safer alternatives, such as resin composite or atraumatic restorative treatment (ART) are now widely available
  • If you’re thinking of having your mercury fillings removed, get healthy first, as you want your detoxification mechanisms optimized prior to removal, then seek out a qualified biological dentist

By Dr. Mercola

Far from being an essential dental product with no viable alternatives, amalgam (mercury) fillings are substitutable with other filling materials.

Yet this toxic material is still being widely used by dentists in the United States by about half the dentists, the other half refuse to use this toxic material.

It's high time for this archaic practice to be put to rest, as yet another report, this time from the Health Care Research Collaborative, has ruled that the impacts of mercury on human health and the environment far outweigh those posed by safer alternative materials.

Mercury Alternatives "Less Hazardous" to Public Health and the Environment

Such was the conclusion of researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of public Health when comparing mercury-based dental fillings with alternatives like resin composites and glass ionomer fillings.1

They reported:

"Based on current evidence, the ultimate goal of a phase-out of virtually all usage of dental mercury is recommended. This phase-out must be planned and deliberate, assuring continued emphasis on adequate restorations to prevent continued tooth decay and the potential of malnutrition in economically impoverished areas … Based on this comparative review and the practical experience of countries and dentists that have essentially eliminated mercury amalgams, a virtual phase-out of dental amalgam, with exceptions provided for difficult cases, is possible and advisable."

Already, Denmark, Sweden and Norway have banned dental amalgam (a specific exception can be granted for individual cases), and Canada, Italy and Australia have taken steps to reduce amalgam use.

The 47 nations of the Council of Europe also 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)."

The problems with mercury fillings are two-fold. First, 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 immunological, neurological, and even psychological problems. Children and fetuses, whose brains are still developing, are most at risk, but really anyone can be impacted.

Second, 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. It's estimated that 362 tons of dental mercury are used annually worldwide, causing a significant environmental burden – for absolutely no reason, as safer alternatives are already widely available.

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WHO Also Takes Stand Against Dental Mercury

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its final report on dental amalgam,ii and also took a stance against the use of mercury in dentistry, urging "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 position:iii

  1. Amalgam releases a "significant amount of mercury" into the environment, including the atmosphere, surface water, groundwater, and soil. WHO reported:
  2. "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."

  3. 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:
  4. "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."

  5. 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.
  6. 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."

Crime Against Humanity Complaint Filed for Victims of Mercury Filling Experiment Funded by U.S. Government

In 2006, a study funded by the U.S. government's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) was published in JAMA.iv It involved children from low-income families, as well as those from an orphanage, who were given either fillings that contained mercury or a mercury-free composite material. Now the consumer group Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS) and the International Criminal Court have filed a "Crime Against Humanity" complaint against those involved.

Along with exposing the children to a known toxic substance, it's alleged that misleading consent forms were used that did not disclose the mercury exposure or absorption possible from the fillings. Some did not even disclose that the fillings contained mercury. Further, while the study concluded there were no differences in the health impacts caused by the two materials (and as a result is used by the American Dental Association and other public health agencies to "prove" the safety of mercury fillings), major scientific flaws in the study design and conclusions were detected by Boyd Haley, PhD, chairman of IAOMT's Scientific Advisory Board and Professor Emeritus at the University of Kentucky.v Among them:

  • Neglecting to properly measure the amount of mercury exposure to the children
  • Using urine and blood mercury levels even though more than 90% of mercury is excreted in feces
  • Used less sensitive clinical testing parameters for detecting mercury toxicity
  • Did not specify that their conclusions should not apply to children with neurodevelopmental or systemic illness

DAMS is asking for an investigation to be launched, directed at those responsible for the design, funding, execution, analysis, and publication of the experiment, noting:vi

"The experiment exposed the children to significant amounts of mercury, a deadly poison, in order to justify the use of dental amalgam fillings, and the results were used to promote the use of mercury fillings on millions of additional children throughout the world."

What Types of Alternative are There?

About 77 percent of consumers who are told that amalgam contains mercury choose mercury-free alternatives.vii

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 United States 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.

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

Did You Know?

dental fillings infographic

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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: