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Mercury-Free Dentistry 2016 — A Progress Report

Story at-a-glance -

  • For the sixth year in a row, we celebrate Mercury-Free Dentistry Week. Until August 28, all donations to Consumers for Dental Choice will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000
  • Twenty years ago, only 3 percent of American dentists were mercury-free. Today, half of all dentists practice mercury-free dentistry. The current campaign focuses on getting insurance companies to cover all mercury-free fillings
  • Getting dental mercury into the Minamata Convention on Mercury was the death knell for amalgams. Now we must demand implementation of the requirements of the treaty, which means eliminating use of amalgam

By Dr. Mercola

For the sixth year in a row, we now celebrate Mercury-Free Dentistry Week. With us again is Charlie Brown, president of Consumers for Dental Choice and former attorney general for West Virginia.

As in previous years, we will match your donations to Consumers for Dental Choice, dollar for dollar up to $100,000, between now and August 28, 2016. I do this because eliminating dental mercury is such an important effort for both human and environmental health.

Nearly 20 years ago, Brown committed his life to this advocacy to help improve the lives of millions of people, and your generous donations are what allows him to continue.

"Certainly things took off after you [Dr. Mercola] really dug in to start helping us six years ago. I really appreciate that," Brown says. "About 20 years ago … only 3 percent of dentists would even admit to be mercury-free.

A mercury triangle ruled; the triangle being the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration (FDA) …  the American Dental Association (ADA) and the state dental boards.

The state dental boards ordered silence on behalf of dentists. Dentists who spoke up — and there were many courageous dentists — were at risk, and several of them did lose their dental licenses. My work [began by] representing those [dentists]."

Conspiracy of Silence

As explained by Brown, the conspiracy of silence was necessary because no one would want amalgams in their mouth if they understood that half of it was toxic mercury. To "white-wash" the truth, they called it "silver fillings," misleadingly based on the color rather than the composition of the material, which is 50 percent mercury.

In reality, amalgam is a primitive pre-Civil War pollutant that cracks your teeth and leaches toxic heavy metal vapors into your tissues. Its only advantage is that the dentist can make more money per chair per day, as people with amalgams end up needing more frequent restoration work.

Amalgam is also easy for the less competent dentists, as illustrated by a dental association president's public admission at a meeting on amalgam before federal and state government officials and dental school deans to which Charlie was invited:  

 "As a dental association president told me, amalgam is 'forgiving,' meaning, [the pro-mercury dentists] can do a terrible job and still finish the day and get the patient out of the chair, out of the office, and charge them," Brown says.

Meanwhile, it has no advantages for the patient. Not even in terms of cost. Composite materials are only about 20 percent more expensive than amalgam, and on small cavities, there's no difference in price. Some materials, such as ionomers, are actually less expensive than amalgam.

"Twenty years ago, composites weren't very good. Today they are much better than amalgam. Technologically, amalgam is now terrible compared to the alternatives. It's not tooth friendly. You remove good tooth matter. Obviously you put in toxin.

The alternatives have it all over amalgam. What keeps amalgam in place is the inaction of the FDA," Brown says.

Are Composite Materials Safe?

Some health advocates have raised concerns about composites as well, noting that some may leach bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates and other plastic chemicals. According to Brown, not all composites will contain BPA, and even those that do are likely far safer than amalgam.

"It's not really BPA," he says. "It can combine to produce BPA once it is outgassed. [But] the outgassing is not the same as having BPA inside your plastic food [container]. It's not in there."

According to Brown, some composites may contain a precursor to BPA, which can enter the environment just like dental mercury, but European scientists have concluded that — unlike the mercury in amalgam — the amount of environmental pollution is very small and does not pose an environmental problem.  

As for health risks, there are risks anytime you place anything in your mouth or body, but mercury is the most vaporous of the heavy metals. Meaning, it vaporizes easily and can enter your brain. It's also one of the most toxic of the heavy metals.

"It is the only metal [whose man-made uses are] condemned [by] a treaty … the Minamata Convention on Mercury. That's the game-changer. That's the death [knell] now for mercury fillings," Brown says.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury Was a Game Changer

The Minamata Convention on Mercury was negotiated by well over 100 nations from every continent under the coordination of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

The World Health Organization (WHO) also agrees the treaty needs to be globally implemented and has reviewed the international guidance on amalgam produced by UNEP.

Consumers for Dental Choice was instrumental in getting dental amalgam included in this treaty. The Minamata Convention focused on environmental mercury pollution.

In recognition of that, Brown assembled a grand coalition of talented environmental, consumer and dental leaders worldwide; ensured they were present at every plenary and regional session, and effectively made the case for including a road map for mercury-free dentistry.

We helped subsidize Brown's travel expenses during that five-year process, as meetings were held all over the world. Your donations also helped in this critical endeavor.

"It was so important, because we needed to be at [all the meetings]. The governments did not expect amalgam to be in the treaty. They told me that afterward.

They [the governments] just thought it was too high a climb for us with the World Dental Federation — the American, British, Canadian, European and Australian Dental Associations — telling their delegates, 'Don't do this.' [But] we outpointed them.

They [the pro-mercury faction of dentists] brought in these white guys from Europe and North America to talk down to the rest of the people in the world. We brought in a team from all over the world — women and men of all colors and races

… Basically, we brought everybody. We brought dentists, environmentalists, consumer advocates and professors. The World Dental Federation, which had been used to simply talking down to people and saying, 'We're dentists … We like amalgam' — their position has been rejected unilaterally."

Please Continue Supporting Consumers for Dental Choice

Getting dental mercury into the Minamata Convention is a great illustration of what can be done when you have committed, dedicated advocates, like Consumers for Dental Choice, who are able to strategically maneuver through the bureaucratic morass. Consumers for Dental Choice is by far one of the best, most organized grassroots advocates out there. All of this work was done with about $1 million-worth of donations over five years. It's rare to get that kind of "payout" when donating to a cause.

One million dollars is a relatively small amount when you consider that being included in this treaty provides potent leverage to finally get this toxin out of dentistry, so your children and grandchildren can grow up without mercury poisoning their mouths.

Many talented men and women have dedicated themselves to this cause, joining Consumers for Dental Choice in their efforts around the world. These include Shahriar Hossain in Bangladesh, Dominique Bally in Côte d'Ivoire, Maria Carcamo in Uruguay, Marie Grosman in France and Michael Bender from Vermont.

"These people have made huge commitments as a talented team, top to bottom. They are environmental leaders. They are journalists, dentists, lawyers and physicians [such as]-Dr. Mark Mitchell in Connecticut, who have said, 'We're going to work together. We're going to phase out amalgam,' and we're working with Mercola.com. The momentum is just tremendous."

At this point, it's becoming increasingly important for patients and parents to just say NO to amalgam, and to demand mercury-free dentistry. Do not let your dentist talk you out of it. Don't let the insurance company deny your claim. If you're on Medicaid, stand firm and demand mercury-free dentistry.

"Consumers in North America must assert ourselves to the dentist, to the corporate interest, the insurance companies, and say, 'Not for me. Not for my child. No amalgam,'" Brown says.

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Minamata Update

The Minamata Convention was signed in late 2013 by well over 100 nations.  Consumers for Dental Choice did not wait; it hit the track running to implement the amalgam provision of the treaty, pointing out to the 100-plus nations signing it: "If you signed it, you should be ready to obey it."

The next legal step is ratification. So far, 30 nations have ratified the treaty, including the U.S. We need 50 to make it legally binding. Brown is confident another 20 or more nations will sign the treaty. If the European Union (EU) signs on, which they're expected to do in early 2017, they'll get up to 28 countries in one fell swoop.

"When the EU approves it, the members will jump in. We'll jump from 30 to 50 very fast. We'll get there. Next year, we will start implementing," Brown says. "One of the advantages of the way toxin treaties are done is that it's done by consensus. The disadvantage is the language gets dumbed down, if you will, to make sure everybody agrees. You keep weakening it. The advantage is everybody's onboard …  

No country has said, 'We don't want this treaty' … I'm happy to say the African countries, after the seventh and final meeting of the negotiation session, passed a resolution [of priorities]. [The] No. 1 priority was mercury in gold mines … No. 2 was mercury amalgam. They want mercury-free dentistry."

African civil society has passed the Abuja Declaration for Mercury-Free Dentistry for Africa (named after the capital of Nigeria). Asia is equally serious. Asian civil societies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have passed the Dhaka (Bangladesh) Declaration for Mercury-Free Dentistry for Asia.

"I have been to several countries on both of those continents and I see serious action, probably a lot more focused attention than in our government or the Canadian government," Brown says. "That's because, I think, [those] people are more affected by toxins … [and] there's less bureaucracy."

Demand Your Choice

Today, about 50 percent of dentists offer mercury-free dentistry, up from 3 percent two decades ago. To accelerate change, Consumers for Dental Choice is now focusing its attention on insurance companies. The theme for this year's Mercury-Free Dentistry Week is to "demand your choice." Demand mercury-free dentistry from your dentist and from your insurance company. If they refuse, switch dentists; switch insurance.

At present, many insurance companies, including Delta Dental and Aetna, will typically only pay for amalgam in your back teeth, according to Brown — even though composite, not amalgam, has become the standard and mainstream filling material in North America today. Since mercury-free dentists will not give you an amalgam filling, the insurance company profits, because it is you, not it, who must dig into your pocket to pay the bill.

"They sell an artificially low-price policy to get you in," Brown says. "That's a bait and switch. It's time to hold Delta accountable. It's time to hold Aetna and all these guys — Equitable, Humana, all of them — accountable. Our campaign right now is to demand your choice …

Challenge your insurance company; demand your claim be paid, and work with your mercury-free dentist to do that. We have the paperwork if you push the 'Demand Your Choice' button … We can change this from the grassroots up. We're not going to wait on the FDA. Hell will freeze over first. We're going to simply change the market."

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More People Becoming Aware That Amalgam Is Mercury

The conspiracy of silence kept consumer knowledge at bay for a long time. Fortunately, Zogby polls show the number of people who know amalgam is mercury has doubled in the last eight years. And once they know it, they don't want it.

"We want to embolden everybody. Stand up. Demand your choice. Demand mercury-free dentistry no matter where that dentist is doing it. The smarter choice is don't even go to a dentist that uses mercury. Go straight to a mercury-free dentist," Brown says.

Make no mistake about it, we're making a difference. With your help and support, we can eliminate dental mercury and end this needless poisoning and environmental destruction. It's time to stop putting a neurotoxin in the mouth of young children.

Unfortunately, we'll still be left with the dilemma of treating those who have mercury dental amalgams in their mouths. I'm a classic example myself. My parents were well-intentioned, but I had no idea what healthy food was until much later in life, and about half of my teeth had mercury filings by the time I was in college.

My first exposure to the truth was a 60 Minutes segment with Mike Wallace in the early 1990s. I decided to have my fillings removed, but few dentists understood the dangers of removing amalgams in the mid-90s.

I saw a good dentist, but because he didn't follow safety protocols, I ended up absorbing a large amount of mercury during the removal process. The toxic load subsequently caused kidney damage. It took a long time, but I've been able to resolve that with a low-protein, high-fat diet. Many others are not so lucky and end up struggling with long-term health problems when amalgams are removed incorrectly. Below, you'll find more resources to help you find a dentist qualified to safely remove dental mercury.

Mercury-Free Dentistry Convention

There are three organizations for mercury-free dentists in the U.S.:

  • International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine (IABDM)
  • International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology(IAOMT)
  • Holistic Dental Association

For the first time ever, members of all three of these organizations will meet together for a biological dentistry convention in Reno, Nevada, on September 9 and 10, 2016. If you're a dentist, I strongly recommend attending as I will be presenting the keynote speech there. This is a chance for dentists to discuss and learn about mercury-free dentistry and the Consumers for Dental Choice campaign. Brown and I will both speak at this conference.

Fight for a Mercury-Free Environment

Even if you've already made the switch to mercury-free dentistry, please continue supporting Consumers for Dental Choice, as we still need to convince the other 50 percent of dentists (and insurance companies) to eliminate mercury. We also still have the problem of mercury pollution, and dental mercury is a primary source. It must end.

"As the European health environment scientists' committee [known as SCHER] said, 'Amalgam is a secondary poison. It is getting into the fish the children then eat.' All of us have to work to end amalgam use for everybody. It's not just in the interest of other people. It's [in our own interest] that we not [consume] mercury in our vegetables or mercury in our fish," Brown says.

Amalgam is the No. 1 use of mercury, by far, compared to any other use of mercury, in the U.S., in Canada and in Europe. Tens of thousands of dentists have seen the light and vowed never to put mercury in anyone's mouth ever again. It's high time the rest follow. It's an outrage that so many dentists still continue its use. And it's a travesty that dental mercury has been allowed to decimate one of the healthiest foods on the planet, which is seafood.

Larger fish now have such high levels of mercury; they're no longer safe to eat on a regular basis. The omega-3 fat DHA, specifically, is a magnificent nutrient for your brain and your tissues, but it's now poisoned with mercury. Mercury contamination really limits your ability to stay healthy.

"It's time for all of us to get in this game together," Brown says. "Don't go to a dentist who uses mercury fillings. Even if they don't use it on you, they are polluting the environment. They are harming the potential child. No child should ever have mercury in their mouths, whether they're in Canada or Kenya, whether they're in India or Indiana. We simply should not [give] mercury fillings to any child."

Take Action: Support Consumers for Dental Choice

We support several other non-profit organizations and Consumers for Dental Choice is probably one of the most frugal, making funds stretch as far as they can possibly be stretched. This man will walk for miles rather than taking a taxi. Brown travels on an incredibly tight budget, yet he's highly effective.

From my perspective, it's a privilege to support such an impactful organization. Ultimately, when we're on our deathbed, the main question will be, "What did you do with your life?" You have to leverage yourself and align with organizations like Consumers for Dental Choice in order to really make a difference. Remember, until August 28, 2016, I will also match your donation dollar for dollar, up to $100,000. So please, consider Consumers for Dental Choice as part of your philanthropic efforts.

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If you're not in a position to make a donation, remember you can still make a difference by contacting your insurance company and making sure they cover mercury-free dentistry on ALL your teeth. Also be sure to share this information with your family, friends and social networks. Spread the word. We definitely need your help in creating awareness. Help create a demand for mercury-free dentistry.

And vote with your pocketbook by restricting your choices of dentists to mercury-free dentists. Last but not least, I want to personally thank Charlie Brown for all his past, current and future efforts in making such a major difference in changing the lives of so many!