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October 14, 2016

Mercury fillings impact the health of NY dental hygienists and assistants

According to the United States Department of Labor, there were 200,500 dental hygienist jobs in this country in 2014, with a growth outlook of 19 percent (much higher than most fields) in the next ten years. There are even more dental assistants at 318,800, with an 18 percent growth outlook. Nearly 96 percent of those dental workers are female. Many are young women, starting families. As a holistic dentist in NY, I am concerned about the potential of mercury dental fillings to cause these individuals grave health problems, including birth defects and reproductive failure.

Occupational hazards of amalgam fillings

Silver-colored fillings contain about 50 percent elemental mercury, a known neurotoxin. In conventional dental offices, dental workers rarely wear protective gear or use air filtration masks. The rationale given by their employers is usually two-fold. First, since the ADA and FDA have long supported use of dental amalgam, it must not be dangerous. Second, protective gear would scare patients on the receiving end of amalgam fillings. Most dental workers aren’t fully aware of the hazards of working with amalgam, and their health suffers as a result.

How mercury infiltrates the body

Elemental mercury can be absorbed through the skin, ingested, or inhaled. Dental workers are commonly exposed to mercury vapor. They work in close proximity to a patient’s mouth, breathing the vapor each time an amalgam filling is polished, ground, or drilled.

The human body has no way to flush mercury, so it builds up over time. Mercury vapor attacks the central nervous system, and impairs lung and kidney function. Because the toxin crosses the placenta, it also accumulates in unborn babies. Fetuses are especially susceptible, as the neurological system is developing.

There way to resolve this very real health threat to thousands of NY dental workers and their future offspring. The change will occur when dentists, dental support staff, and patients demand a healthier alternative to mercury-laden amalgam fillings.

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