The Poison In Your Teeth
The phrase “Mad as a hatter” was coined in the late 1800s for hat makers who developed slurred speech, tremors, stumbling, and, in extreme cases, hallucinations from long-term exposure to mercury products used in the hat-making trade.
Mercury’s toxicity was first noted in 1889 by Jean-Martin Charcot in his “Clinical Lectures on Diseases of the Nervous System.” In his classic textbook of neurology published in 1940, S.A. Kinnier Wilson concurred with Charcot’s attribution of tremors to mercury poisoning and attributed other cognitive impairments such as inattention, excitement and hallucinosis to mercury exposure.
Yet even today, half of all dentists – and 4 out of 5 dental specialists — still use mercury amalgam to fill teeth. They’ll never tell you this because the American Dental Association put a gag order on dentists not to talk about the fact that they’re still using the half-silver-half-mercury fillings. The dental filling material is 50 percent mercury by weight.
I hope none of you are still letting your dentist put mercury in your tooth fillings. Some dentists – the half who still use mercury amalgams – will swear by them and will do flips when you say that you don’t want mercury fillings.
Pay no attention. Because if there has ever been a health hazard, it is mercury.
I got onto the risk of mercury when I asked my dentist how he handled mercury in his office. He took every precaution by the book when handling it, yet he couldn’t see the serious danger of leaving the mercury in folks’ mouths every day.
And when they take them out, there’s less material there than when the filling went in. The mercury, being soluble in fat, can get into every cell in your body, including your brain.
Some dentists are waking up, though more out of personal concern than concern for patients. According to a survey by “The Wealthy Dentist” published at International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology, a Missouri dentists wrote, “We all seem to be concerned about the welfare of the patient, but I worry about the long-term effect of exposure to mercury to dentists and staff. For the last ten years, I have been conducting a research study on this very topic. I have discovered that all dentists and staff who either place or remove mercury fillings have extremely high levels of mercury in their systems. Some of the offices, like mine, do not place mercury fillings; they only remove them.” A Texas dentist agreed, saying, “I have high levels of mercury in my system based on testing with my doctor.”
Another rejected the survey as biased. “When we were in dental school we were taught they were ‘Silver Amalgam’ fillings. ‘Mercury Amalgam’ is a term invented by the media,” he said.
Incredibly, despite knowing the dangers of mercury and knowing that dental amalgams release low levels of mercury vapor that can be inhaled and absorbed into the lungs and knowing that mercury vapor exposure is associated with adverse effects on the brain and kidneys, the FDA still recommends its use and against having mercury fillings removed.
Somehow, the system we live under causes doublethink. We think double when we try to have two opposing thoughts at the same time. This is also called cognitive dissonance.
In October, the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health published a study in which they analyzed data from 15,000 individuals and determined that mercury fillings “significantly contribute to prolonged mercury levels in the body.”
From the study, which the researchers involved claim is the “first to demonstrate a relationship between dental fillings and mercury exposure in a nationally representative population”:
“Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases,” said Lei Yin, PhD, MD, MS, a scientist in the department of environmental health science and the study’s lead author. “I think a majority of people have experienced dental fillings, but the kind of materials the dentist uses isn’t something that’s really discussed.”
“This study is trying to provide the most accurate levels of exposure, which will form the scientific basis to make future risk assessment,” said Xiaozhong “John” Yu, PhD, MD, MS, assistant professor of environmental health science and coauthor of the study, noting that the work also is the first to control for age, education, ethnicity, race, gender, smoking, and seafood consumption.
The researchers further analyzed exposure by specific types of mercury and found a significant increase in methyl mercury, the most toxic form of mercury, related to dental fillings. Yu said this result suggests the human gut microbiota may transform different types of mercury.
Dental amalgam has been used as a filling material for more than 150 years because it is affordable and durable. Half of the compound contains mercury, though, a heavy metal known to be toxic at high levels, causing brain, heart, kidney, lung, and immune system damage. New research suggests methyl mercury may cause damage even at low levels.
“As toxicologists, we know that mercury is poison, but it all depends on the dose,” said Yu. “So if you have one dental filling, maybe it’s okay. But if you have more than 8 dental fillings, the potential risk for adverse effect is higher.”
People with numerous dental fillings who are also exposed to mercury from other sources such as seafood or work environments are most at risk. People with more than 8 fillings had about 150% more mercury in their blood than those with none. The average American has 3 fillings, while 25% have 11 or more fillings.
The researchers also examined other composite resins in use and found that they release small amounts of bisphenol A (BPA), which is known to cause developmental and reproductive damage along with obesity and other endocrinal disorders.
I had my mercury fillings replaced years ago, though now I worry about the BPA that has been found in them. But it can’t be worse than mercury dangers.
On his blog, Dr. David Brownstein writes that mercury fillings should be banned and ADA sued:
I have tested thousands of patients for their heavy metal levels and I can assure you that mercury toxicity is, unfortunately, all-too-common. I would estimate that about 80% of the patients I have tested have high mercury levels. Most of these patients were mercury toxic due, in large part, to their mercury fillings.
The most common sources of mercury come from eating fish and dental fillings.
The ADA should be sued for defending the use of mercury fillings and for continuing to claim that mercury fillings are a safe dental materiel.
Care must be taken in extracting mercury amalgams. They must be carefully rotated out or an overload of mercury is released. To find a dentist near you who can safely take them out, refer to the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology website. But detoxing may be the first step you should take. My colleague, Jenny Smiechowski, lists several ways here