Mercury Fillings: Not Efficient

Update: Recently, the FDA concluded that mercury filling have safety issues, see this news story.

Sweden, Denmark and Norway have banned them. Germany and Austria have discouraged use. Yet, in the United States, dental amalgams, the “silver” fillings that have been commonly used in dental practices for decades, are still used frequently as an inexpensive and popular treatment for cavities. Many consumers are unaware that the metal fillings in their teeth are comprised of 50% mercury, a known, proven neurotoxin.

Turn on the news or pick up a newspaper and you’re likely to see a report on the dangers of eating fish because of the levels of toxic mercury they contain. Many consumers are limiting the amount of fish they eat each week because of the danger the mercury level presents, yet have a mouth full of fillings that are damaging to their health. To make a comparison between fish and mercury fillings, an average amalgam contains 0.5 grams of mercury, according to Britain’s Daily Mail.  One half of a gram doesn’t seem like much, but if that amount of mercury was found in a 10-acre lake, a warning about eating the fish found in it would result. And, according to a World Health Organization study, the absorption of mercury from amalgams is four times higher than the absorption from fish consumption.

Even still, the FDA’s latest ruling, in 2009, found that amalgams were safe. FDA spokesperson Susan Runner, DDS, said, “The best available scientific evidence supports the conclusion that patients with dental amalgam fillings are not at risk for mercury-associated adverse health effects.” The American Dental Association agreed, despite the fact that it is proven that amalgams release mercury continuously from the time they are placed in the mouth. Simply chewing puts enough strain on the filling to cause a release of the mercury as vapor. Incidentally, it has been proven that there is no harmless level of mercury vapor exposure, as it is absorbed at a rate of 80% through the lungs into the arterial blood.

We worry about lead poisoning from our paint and arsenic poisoning from accidental ingestion of pesticides, but mercury is a more toxic substance than either one of those. Mercury from amalgams is stored principally in the kidneys, liver and brain and can cause severe problems from kidney damage to autoimmune diseases to Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, mercury has been linked to depletion of the immune system, a number of severe allergies and impairment of the reproductive system. Ironically, mercury can have negative effects on the mouth, as well. Exposure to the substance may lead to soft and spongy gums, loose teeth and mouth sores.

Infants and Children

As with many toxins, the greatest danger is to children and infants, especially fetuses. During pregnancy, it seems that mercury from amalgams travels to the fetus and is stored there before the mother, according to a study by MJ Vimy, a member of the medical faculty of the University of Calgary. In fact, eight times more mercury is stored in the fetus, and, later on, breast milk, than in the mother’s own tissues. Therefore, both fetuses and infants are at greater risk of side effects from their pregnant mother’s amalgam fillings than she is herself.

What You Can Do

The good news is, it’s fairly easy to remove and replace amalgams by a dental professional that is trained in amalgam removal. If you are already pregnant, however, it’s generally better to wait until after the pregnancy to remove the fillings, as the fetus could get a large, one-time dose of mercury vapor exposure that could be harmful. Today, many dentists have discontinued use of amalgam fillings not only because they are potentially harmful but also because there are other options available. White composite and porcelain filling materials serve the same purpose and, as an added bonus, blend with the teeth, whereas silver amalgams tend to be noticeable. The only drawback? These alternatives are more costly than amalgams, but are generally considered as effective long term without the possible health consequences.

If you’re thinking of replacing your old amalgams, consider this: patients who had amalgams removed have been cured of health problems such as fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease. Multiple Sclerosis patients showed significant improvement in their symptoms.

The bottom line here is that there is no reason to put yourself at risk if you don’t have to.  Talk to your dentist about creating a sensible plan to replace amalgams and, moving forward, look for alternatives to maintain both your smile and your health.

18 thoughts on “Mercury Fillings: Not Efficient”

  1. Aha. Found the incentive.

    The reason this is in the news right now is that the FDA is holding a hearing on dental amalgam on Dec 13th and 14th (this week)….

    1. I published the article because I’m interested in the topic, and I have mercury fillings in my mouth. Your theories on my political or financial incentives are baseless, but you are welcome to theorize to your heart’s content.

      1. Gold inlays/onlays/crowns and foils are you best option. They are very biocompatible and slightly softer that your teeth, unlike porcelain (tooth colored) inlays/onlays/crowns. In the posterior teeth (the back teeth) gold will be your best option for longevity as well since they last at least 30 years (assuming you have heard of a toothbrush & maybe, just maybe, floss). Porcelain would be best for the front, but to find a talented dentist in inlays/onlays/crowns is tricky!!

        I am a dental professional and this subject is rather controversial right now. Your best bet is to leave your fillings alone until they need to be replaced. The only time you are exposed to the vapors is during placement and removal of dental amalgam. If a place tells you to get all of your “silver fillings” replaced, turn and walk out the front door. They are not interested in your overall health, but your wallet.

  2. Well, looks like I’m done following this site. Most dental professionals say it’s best to leave them alone, you’ll cause more problems trying to take them out. Lets not even get into the fact that you probably get more mercury in your body from seafood than from your fillings.

    1. 1) there are many other sources of mercury pollution. Coal-fired power is the biggest, but (as an example) chlorine production is non-trivial, and chlorine is an essential component of safe drinking water. (Can you say “Catch-22”?).

      2) Dentists make money replacing amalgam fillings – anything dentists say on the subject shouldn’t be discounted automatically, but should be viewed skeptically.

      1. I am aware that there are other sources of mercury in the world. This does not change the fact that dental amalgams contain mercury and they erode over time.

        1. So, you get very, very VERY small amounts of mercury over the course of the life of the filling. Much less than you get from normal environmental exposure.

          You’re going to go in with a drill and take it out.. Flinging mercury all over the inside of your mouth where it will be absorbed at a much faster rate, where you can’t help but swallow some of it, to be replaced with another kind of filling that may or may not be just as bad or worse due to BPA (I personally don’t think it’s worse, but I also think mercury fillings aren’t that bad).

          Better to just leave it.

          1. After being in your mouth for 10 years or so, dentists recommend that mercury fillings be replaced due to erosion. Where does all that mercury go?

          2. The amalgam is vaccumed into the HVAC system,separated and sent to facilities that handle biohazardous waste. OSHA makes sure dental offices do this.

            Who are the dentists recommending replacement? Did you know that corrosion makes the seal to the tooth better? (Where the tooth and filling meet)

      1. What exactly is “loopy”? Questioning whether mercury, the most toxic substance on earth, should be placed in people’s mouths?

        1. Countless studies have shown it to be a myth.
          The FDI (World Dentist Association) states there is no evidence of a link between the mercury in the fillings and any side effects.
          The Australian Dentist Association have said the same thing.
          As has the American Cancer Society.
          And the World Health Organization.
          Dentists ignoring scientific data are just looking to make a quick buck I guess. I’m not sure what’s in it for fear mongering sites like this.
          I will provide links if you don’t know how to use Google.
          … David

          1. Dental organizations have large financial interest here — there would be monumental lawsuits if they admitted that mercury fillings are toxic.

            The WHO makes no claims about the safety of mercury fillings.

          2. That document does not mention mercury fillings. Wikipedia says though:

            This WHO monograph ( concluded that:

            * Studies on humans and animals have demonstrated that dental amalgam contributes significantly to mercury body burden in humans with amalgam fillings.
            * Dental amalgam is the most common form of exposure to elemental mercury in the general population, constituting a potentially significant source of exposure to elemental mercury, with estimates of daily intake from amalgam restorations ranging from 1 to 12.5 μg/day, the majority of dental amalgam holders being exposed to less than 5 μg mercury/day.
            * Intestinal absorption varies greatly among the various forms of mercury, with elemental mercury (as found in amalgam) being the least absorbed form (<0.01%)
            * Absorption also varies according to individual factors such as gum chewing and bruxism (tooth grinding).


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