Dental amalgam has been used in the United States to fill cavities since before the Civil War. In those early days, the material was inexpensive. Even today, some dentists prefer amalgam because fillings can be completed quickly. Prep work doesn’t require a lot of finesse – the dentist simply drills out a substantial portion of tooth structure and presses the malleable material into place. Plus, amalgam lasts a long time. However, these “silver” fillings actually contain only a tiny bit of silver. This combination of metals includes about 50 percent mercury. Many health-conscious patients are choosing to have amalgam fillings removed because of the implications of having one of the most toxic elements known to mankind situated a few inches from the brain. Yet doubters continue to ask, “Why consider amalgam removal?” Let’s take a look at some of their common contentions, from a holistic perspective.
An alloy is a combination of metallic elements. Dental amalgam is an alloy of copper, tin, and silver, with mercury as a binding agent. Mercury does not become inert in this mixture. Friction (chewing, biting, and grinding) allows mercury vapor to escape from amalgam and be absorbed into the lungs, digestive tract, and soft tissues of the mouth.
Skeptic claim #1 – “Mercury is harmless in an alloy.”
Skeptic claim #2 – “The FDA says it is safe.”This is true . . . kinda, sorta. In published statements, the United States Food and Drug Administration has asserted that amalgam is a safe and effective restorative material, and there appears to be no justification for discontinuing its use. However, in December 2010, the FDA’s own expert panel recommended making sure all consumers and parents know that amalgam is primarily mercury, and stopping the use of amalgam for children and pregnant women.
Skeptic claim #3 – “Amalgam fillings do not represent dangerous levels of mercury.”How much mercury is “safe?” A typical amalgam filling contains 1,000 mg (1 gram) of mercury. A fever thermometer contains .5 to 1.5 grams of mercury. The Environmental Protection Agency lists nine supplies and at least ten steps to safely clean up the spill from a broken thermometer, including having everyone (pets, too) leave the area, and contacting your local health department, municipal waste authority, or fire department for proper disposal in accordance with local, state, and federal laws. (www.epa.gov/mercury/what-do-if-mercury-thermometer-breaks )
Skeptic claim #4 – “There is no clear connection between amalgam and health problems.”Mercury is a neurotoxin, destructive to nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord. Mercury is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, a natural protective layer around the brain, and is passed into the placenta and breast milk of pregnant women. Mercury bioaccumulates – the body has no defense mechanism to eliminate it, so with continued exposure, mercury levels build-up. Chronic mercury poisoning is related to a broad range of serious illnesses including depression, developmental defects, kidney disease, liver disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and many others.
Reasons you may want to consider amalgam removalIf you are considering amalgam removal, there are three compelling reasons to call The Brand Wellness Center:
- Healthier options are available. I use a composite resin that is free of BPAs, and requires less removal of tooth structure. This material is strong and durable. It reacts to temperature changes similar to the way your teeth do, so there is reduced risk of a filling cracking your tooth.
- Safe removal methods. Having a non-holistic dentist just grind a filling out increases risk from mercury vapor. I remove amalgam fillings following strict guidelines from the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, to minimize mercury hazard to the patient, to the dental staff, and to the environment.
- Appearance matters. Composite resin filling material is basically a white plastic compound with finely ground glass crystals for translucency. These fillings blend beautifully with your teeth.