| If you drop a thermometer at work and it breaks, government guidelines recommend the room be sealed until Hazardous Materials experts can decontaminate the scene. If your child swallows a watch battery, your next phone call better be to the Poison Control Center. Toss out some old mercury-switch thermostats at your local landfill and you could be subject to some hefty EPA fines.
In all those cases, the offending material is the toxic heavy metal, mercury. The sobering thought is that eight out of ten Americans have more mercury in their mouth than in any of the above items. You are probably one of them. And every time you chew food or drink liquid or brush your teeth, toxic mercury vapors and particles enter your body.
Thats right. 80 percent of Americans have been to the dentist and heard the bad news, "Well, youve got just a little cavity there. We can fill it in a jiffy." Out comes the drill, in goes some silvery metal. When we let the dentist fill it with a "silver" filling, we acquired a long-term source of toxic mercury sitting right in our mouth. Have more than one in your mouth? Most of us do.
Filling fine? Not really.
Current estimates are that American dentists put 80 tons of toxic mercury and over 100 million fillings in our mouths every year. 92 percent of American dentists still say they prefer to work with amalgam for fillings despite safer alternatives. Institutions are hard to change.
The inherent toxicity of mercury is not open to debate. Immune system problems, organ dysfunction, kidney damage, nervous system debilitation and chronic diseases are all linked to mercury poisoning. The debate is with the ADA position that mercury fillings are not a major source of mercury in the body.
Critics of amalgam fillings believe the established procedure is so ingrained, the financial interest so lucrative and the dental industry so intractable that are the real reasons these fillings are still used.
For their part, the ADA insists that mercury/silver fillings are safe. They insist that only tiny amounts of mercury are released from fillings and cite their own research that no links to disease have been found. (Recall that as recently as the 1950s the American medical establishment acknowledged no link between smoking and lung cancer either.)
Amalgam fillings are durable and that is part of the problem. They release substantial amounts over the decades they remain in the mouth. Evidence is mounting against their use because new procedures are finding that the amount of mercury released is greater than first believed. Finding mercury in tissue is what is disturbing. It stays there virtually for life and is accumulative. It crosses the placenta and the blood/brain barrier.
Europe has already outlawed "silver" fillings
Governments worldwide are banning amalgam fillings. Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Finland and Canada all have completed steps to halt their use. As of 2000, you cant get a mercury filling in Sweden, Austria or Germany. In California, state law requires a disclosure form signed by all patients who are going to have fillings, letting them know that their dentist is about to put a controversial material in their mouth. Other states are introducing similar legislation.
There are options to amalgam. Dental composite materials using ceramic particles and resins, a sort of super-hard plastic, are now available. Part of the initial problem was that dentists trained in using amalgam, which is relatively easy to work with, were poorly trained in adapting to the resins. And there was precious little incentive. Their own organization says mercury fillings are not a hazard.
ADA guidelines are a stranglehold. According to the insurance industry, payments are based on what the ADA recommends. Since composite fillings are slightly more costly than amalgam, insurance usually wont cover the safer materials. That means the ADA would have to change to expand coverage to non-mercury alternatives.
Ironically, the ADA recently announced that their researchers are developing a composite to replace mercury fillings. Cant help but wonder why they would be researching it at all if mercury were really safe. It is difficult to reconcile that in this age of space-age technology we are still using the exact same materials dentists of the 1800s used and that one of them is a known toxic metal. You can bet that when the bottom line is affected, the ADA will come on board.
If you ask your dentist for an opinion, expect the ADA line. He or she will likely resist. Probably they have never been trained to use the new materials. Even the rare dentist who understands the problem is reluctant to speak out against the ADA. But know that you have the right to determine your own health choices. There are dentists who are trained to use less lethal means of filling your teeth. Ask pointed questions. Get definite answers. And use common sense. If you want the new materials, find a dentist who knows about them.
If you already have a mouth full of mercury, the removal process could expose you to more mercury than leaving them be unless it is done by an experienced dentist. Many feel that the only justification for complete removal is if one is suffering a chronic, unresponsive disease. In many cases, health has been known to return when the consistent mercury exposure is ended. Aside from safe removal, there are a number of nutritional recommendations that can help stay the damage from mercury in our bodies. DAMS, Inc., (Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome) is a non-profit that provides more information at 1-800-311-6265 or visit HeartlandHealing.com.
Silver by any other name is... Mercury
Mercury is a poison, more toxic than lead or arsenic. When introduced to the body it goes mainly to organs like the brain, kidneys, liver and nerve cells where it hides relatively undetected, slowly poisoning the system. Enough of it and it can kill you right away. An acute symptom of mercury poison is nervous tremors and loss of motor function. Over the long term, mercury poisoning will cause chronic conditions and shorten life.
You and your dentist may have called them "silver" fillings. Truth-in-advertising laws wouldnt allow that anywhere else. So-called "silver fillings" are actually and accurately called amalgam fillings and are 50 percent toxic mercury, 35 percent silver, and smaller amounts of tin, copper and zinc. The metal goop they form does make a marvelous filling material for dental caries. Its just too bad its poisonous.
Critics of mercury fillings link them to a host of ailments including Alzheimers, cardiac dysfunction, kidney failure, migraines, auto-immune diseases, multiple sclerosis, digestive disorders, chronic fatigue, depression, dementia and more. Some stricken with these diseases have regained health after removal of their fillings.
As long ago as the seventh century A.D., Chinese doctors used a silvery paste to fill decayed teeth. By the 19th century, mercury/silver amalgam became popular in European dentistry. When introduced to America around 1845, the American Society of Dental Surgeons banned its use, knowing the effects of mercury. But amalgam was far cheaper than the major alternative, gold. Lower prices meant more people could afford to have teeth filled and that meant more patients. Dentists liked that idea. Supporters of the bottom line won out and in 1859 formed their own organization, the American Dental Association. Based on its position that mercury amalgam fillings are safe, the ADA persists to this day. Dentists who oppose the ADA stand on amalgam fillings are faced with disciplinary action. (This from the same organization that "sells" its stamp of approval to toothpaste companies that put formaldehyde and other poisons in popular toothpaste. Read the label. Do you feel comfortable giving your children something to brush their teeth with that has poison warnings on it? Especially when there are safer alternatives?)