By Dr. Mercola
While often overlooked, your dental health can have a significant impact on your overall health. It's difficult to achieve high-level physical health if your oral health is ignored. Dr. Gerry Curatola, founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry, has over 30 years' experience in biological dentistry. As Curatola notes, your mouth is your "gateway to total body wellness." Indeed, thousands of studies have linked oral disease to systemic disease.
Inflammation is known to be a disease-causing force leading to most chronic illness, and gum disease and other oral diseases produce chronic low-grade inflammation that can have a deleterious effect on every major organ system in your body.
Oral disease can therefore contribute to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer's, just to name a few. Advanced gum disease can raise your risk of a fatal heart attack up to 10 times. And, according to Curatola, if you get a heart attack related to gum disease, 9 times out of 10 it will be fatal.
There's also a 700 percent higher incidence of type 2 diabetes among those with gum disease, courtesy of the inflammatory effects of unbalanced microflora in your mouth.
Caring for Your Oral Microbiome
When the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease enter into your circulatory system it causes your liver to release C-reactive proteins, which have inflammatory effects on your entire circulatory system. So a major part of oral health is attending to your oral microbiome.
Achieving oral health is really about promoting balance among the bacteria in your mouth. Interestingly, probiotics do not work in the oral cavity, so it's not as simple as adding beneficial bacteria to your mouth. Instead, as an initial step, you need to cease killing microbes in your mouth. Curatola explains:
"Pathogens are now being recognized as resident microbes that are out of balance … [T]he same bacteria that keep us alive can have a pathogenic expression when disturbed.
I have been tooting the horn about getting out of the 'pesticide business.' I'm also speaking about natural pesticides. Not just triclosan, clorhexidin and those synthetic types, but other antimicrobial oils that … can have a potent disturbing effect on the oral microbiome.
In the mouth, you don't want to have a 'scorched earth policy,' nuking all bacteria and hoping the good bugs come back … [G]ood bugs basically have a harder chance of setting up a healthy-balanced microbiome when you disturb them, denature them, or dehydrate them with alcohol-based products."
Avoid Mouthwashes and Fluoridated Toothpaste
So, as your first step, stop using antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses. Instead, consider taking nutrients that support gum and oral health. Two important ones are vitamin C and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Bleeding gums is often a sign of CoQ10 deficiency. There are also a number of homeopathic tissue salts that can be beneficial for oral health, including silica, calcarea fluorica (calcium fluoride), calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate.
Calcium fluoride should not be confused with the chemical formulation of sodium fluoride found in toothpaste, which is toxic and carries a poison warning. Fluoride not only harms your microbiome; it also has many other detrimental health effects. In fact, fluoride over-exposure from toothpaste, fluoridated water and other sources, has led to a virtual epidemic of fluoride damage. At present, 4 out of 10 adolescents in the U.S. have fluoride-damaged teeth — a condition known as dental fluorosis.
Many assume that use of fluoridated toothpaste and water is an issue that relates to your dental health alone. But according to a 500-page scientific review,1 fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, brain, thyroid gland, pineal gland and even your blood sugar levels.
At least 34 human studies and 100 animal studies have also linked fluoride to brain damage,2 including lower IQ in children, and studies have shown that fluoride toxicity can lead to a wide variety of health problem.
The Dangers of Mercury Amalgam
Aside from fluoride and antibacterial agents, mercury is another dental-related substance that can wreak havoc with your health. In the video above, Dr. Oz interviews Curatola about the dangers of "silver fillings" which, despite their name, contain mostly mercury, a well-known neurotoxin and dangerous environmental pollutant. About 50 percent of the amalgam filling is mercury; the remainder is a mixture of copper, tin, silver and zinc.
Mercury amalgam is defended by its apologists for the bizarre reason that it has been used in dentistry for over 150 years. Being a pre-Civil War remedy is not something to brag about! Medicine long ago stopped other pre-Civil War harmful practices, such as bleeding patients and giving them a bottle of mercury to drink.
Amalgams have been linked to a long list of health problems, including fatigue, memory loss, tremors, problems with motor coordination, inability to concentrate, migraines, mood swings, anxiety and autoimmune problems.
Norway, Denmark and Sweden have all banned mercury amalgam, citing health and environmental hazards. So why is amalgam still being used by half of all dentists in the U.S.? The answer is: because it's inexpensive and easy to use, which boosts the profits of dentists' who can make more per chair per day using mercury fillings.
Is Your Insurance Company Still Operating in the Dark Ages?
Many dental insurance companies also do not cover 100 percent of non-amalgam restoration work, which keeps the allure of amalgam alive. For example, some insurance policies only pay for amalgam in molar teeth; if you want composite, you have to pay out-of-pocket. A consumer penalty exist for those who exercise their right to have mercury-free fillings in their molars.
This is really unacceptable, considering the massive costs of amalgam, including (1) to human health, (2) to the environment, (3) to our food supply and the added mercury, (4) to dental workers breathing the mercury-laden air and (5) to consumers who incur future dental bills from amalgam's destructive nature, in contrast to the minimally-invasive and tooth-friendly alternatives.
Also, while amalgam is very strong, capable of withstanding decades' worth of wear and tear in your mouth, it actually makes your tooth weaker. A greater amount of healthy tooth material must be drilled out in order to place amalgam, compared to when using modern composite materials. Amalgam-filled teeth are therefore weaker and more prone to cracking, which necessitates additional restoration work. Composite materials tend to have the opposite effect, helping to maintain and even strengthen tooth integrity.
Take Action — Make Mercury-Free Dentistry a Reality for All
During Mercury-Free Dentistry Week, August 21 through 28, I will match your donations dollar-for-dollar to Consumers for Dental Choice, up to $100,000. Consumers for Dental Choice is a small, effective organization with the sole mission of making mercury-free dentistry a reality in North America and around the world, and they've been working to protect your right to choose mercury-free dentistry for the past 20 years.
The American Dental Association (ADA) continues to insist that the mercury in amalgam is safe for children, even though the FDA makes clear in its regulation that no clinical studies show amalgam's safety for children under age six, nor for pregnant women. On the other hand, studies have suggested dental amalgam is responsible for at least 60 to 95 percent of mercury in human tissues.3
Dental amalgams are also responsible for environmental mercury pollution — so much so that when environmental cleanup costs are factored in, dental amalgams are likely the most expensive type of dental filling available.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dental clinics are the main source of mercury product pollution, which is discharged into public water treatment centers. The U.S. Geological Survey says that the largest use of mercury, by far, is dental amalgam. Dental amalgam is also the largest use of mercury in Canada and in the European Union.
How Much Amalgam Is Too Much?
We now know that amalgam fillings release mercury vapors every time it's stimulated, such as when you're eating or brushing your teeth. The question that remains to be answered is: How much amalgam poses a definitive health threat? Is it dangerous to have one filling? Or is the risk negligible until you reach a certain number of fillings?
We still do not have a definitive answer to this. However, we do know that mercury is a potent immune suppressant and that it is extremely toxic to your central nervous system (CNS). Hence, if you experience immune or CNS symptoms and have amalgams in your mouth, your amalgams could potentially be a contributing factor. Ditto if you have any of the classic signs of mercury toxicity, which include:
- Memory loss
- Inability to concentrate
- Motor coordination problems
A typical amalgam filling contains about 750 to 1,000 mg of mercury.4 This is nearly 500,000 times more mercury than is present in contaminated sea food. Eating mercury-tainted seafood can expose you to about 2.3 mcg,5 and that alone was enough for scientists to call for a worldwide warning6 back in 2006.
Tests suggest a single amalgam filling may release as much as 15 micrograms (mcg) of mercury per day. In the video above, Dr. Oz brushes a set of molded teeth with a row of amalgam fillings in a sealed container equipped with a mercury measuring device and, within seconds, 61 mcg of mercury is released!
These mercury vapors can easily pass through your cell membranes and cross your blood-brain barrier into your central nervous system, where they can cause serious psychological, neurological and immunological problems. According to an extensive scientific review7 about mercury and children's health, there really is NO known safe level of exposure for mercury. So any dentist who tells you that mercury exposure from amalgam is "minimal" or "inconsequential" is doing you a reprehensible disservice.
Should You Have Your Amalgams Removed?
The answer to that really depends on your general health and the number, age and condition of your amalgam fillings. As a general guideline, Curatola recommends talking to a qualified biological dentist about removing your amalgam fillings if you:
- Have eight or more mercury filings
- Grind your teeth
- Eat acidic food regularly
- Drink soda regularly
All of these factors increase the amount of mercury vapor being released from your amalgam fillings, raising your risk of experiencing problems related to mercury toxicity.
However, it's important to realize that amalgam removal can pose a serious health threat in and of itself, if done without the proper safety precautions. For this reason, it's important to find a qualified biological dentist who is trained in safe amalgam removal. It would also be wise to take steps to boost your immune function prior to removal to help with the detoxification process.
When amalgams are removed, a large amount of mercury is released. If the proper precautions aren't taken, your body can be suddenly flooded with a massive dose of mercury, which can lead to acute kidney problems. I experienced this myself more than 25 years ago when I had my amalgams removed by a non-biological dentist.
Biological dentistry views your teeth and gums as an integrated part of your body, and any medical treatments performed take this into account. Biological dentists are well aware of the dangers involved with toxic materials such as amalgams. Some of the steps that need to be taken 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
Putting a rubber dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins, and using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor
Using a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors
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
It's Time: DEMAND Mercury-Free Dentistry
The game changer for mercury-free dentistry is the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Consumers for Dental Choice led a worldwide coalition to secure amalgam into that Convention, whose goal is a world free of anthropogenic (man-made uses) of mercury.
Minamata calls on every nation to shift insurance and government programs from favoring amalgam to favoring mercury-free materials. With the Minamata Convention on the verge of being ratified, this is our chance to help Consumers for Dental Choice take things to the next level — its enforcement in every nation. You can help by making a generous donation today, knowing I will match it dollar-for-dollar, up to $100,000. Donations are tax-exempt and can be made online or by mailing a check to:
Consumers for Dental Choice
316 F St., N.E., Suite 210
Washington DC 20002
Today, consumer demand for mercury-free dentistry is really only held back by insurance companies and other third-party payers who mandate continued amalgam use. To empower you to take control of your health, Consumers for Dental Choice has developed tools you and your dentist can use to challenge your dental insurance company's decision to deny you your right to choose mercury-free dental care. Learn more by visiting DemandYourChoice.com.8