The Hazards of
Mercury Amalgam Fillings
Parkinson's disease, ADD, Autism and Alzheimer's are believed to be closely associated with mercury contamination, and all of these diseases are being diagnosed at higher rates every year.
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You may have heard that mercury amalgam fillings are toxic to the body and wondered whether they should be removed from your mouth. This is a basic question I hear on a daily basis in my dental practice. It can be confusing when hearing conflicting stories from government, medical, and dental agencies, but the answer is simple.
Scientific studies have clearly proven mercury is toxic and harmful to the body. And mercury amalgam fillings are the number one source of mercury contamination in the human body--10 times higher than from contaminated fish. Mercury is controlled and regulated in our environment and in the foods we eat. So why is it still allowed to be placed in teeth as part of silver amalgam fillings? And why are people not being informed of the health hazards?
The decision to place mercury fillings in our teeth (or remove them from our teeth) should be based upon clear information. Then each individual can make their own rational decision on this issue. To begin with, you should know what's in a "silver filling." It's actually composed of an alloy of metals: silver, tin, copper, and zinc, which are then mixed with approximately 50% mercury. Technically, these are not silver fillings at all. They are mercury fillings.
This type of filling was introduced in the early 1830's as an inexpensive treatment for diseased and broken teeth. Mercury was a new discovery that was fascinating because it was the only liquid metal that could dissolve other metals easily. A little experimentation and viola…the mercury filling was created. It was an easy alternative to the more expensive gold restoration. This made treatment much more accessible to the average person. However, affordability did not make it a good treatment modality. Many of the harmful effects were known even back then, although in most situations the numerous side effects were not apparent until long after the patient left the dentist's office. So it was easy to sweep the issue under the rug--and the epidemic of mercury poisoning began.
Mercury contamination occurs through two basic scenarios. First and foremost, it passes into our bloodstream from breathing the vapors. (Yes, you breathe vapors from amalgam fillings.) These vapors come off of existing mercury fillings as we breathe each and every second of the day. This is harmful! Anyone who tells you that mercury is stable once it's in filling form is wrong.
How does our body react to this mercury contamination? Initially it goes straight from our lungs into the blood where the process of damage begins as is it binds to hemoglobin (blood cells) and prevents oxygenation. Less oxygen to our cells equals feelings of fatigue. This is usually one of the first symptoms of mercury poisoning.
The second stage of mercury contamination is through our digestive system. One filling can release as much as 15 micrograms of mercury per day. Mercury is fat soluble and passes readily through cell membranes and across the blood-brain barrier. Once it's ingested, it is stored permanently and the more harmful effects can occur.
There are numerous diseases, conditions, and symptoms associated with mercury contamination including Alzheimer's, kidney dysfunction, multiple sclerosis and thyroid problems. The list is growing as more studies are done. The brain, central nervous system, and fatty tissues are the main areas in the body where mercury is stored. Some other areas include lungs, intestines, spleen, liver, spinal cord, and kidneys. Mercury affects each individual differently. Some people experience symptoms immediately but for most it takes years of accumulation to produce health problems.
Our body is capable of excreting mercury, however only in small amounts. Mercury fillings cause the mercury levels in the body to rise in excess of our ability to excrete it. So what happens to the mercury? Our body stores it, because there is nowhere else for it to go. The place in the body that appears to be affected at the highest rate is the brain and central nervous system. Fatigue, short term memory loss, poor concentration, and phobic compulsive behavior are sometimes early symptoms and signs. Shakes and neuromuscular problems develop later. Parkinson's disease, ADD, autism and Alzheimer's are now being studied, as it is believed they are closely associated with mercury contamination--and these diseases are being diagnosed at higher rates every year. Add to the list: kidney failure, autoimmune diseases, digestive problems, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, storage in fat tissue with increase in cholesterol and triglycerides, reproductive issues, bone disease, and cancer. Need we go further?
There are alternative options to mercury amalgam fillings. These treatments can vary from a small resin filling to the optimal treatment of a porcelain restoration that will last your whole life. It also depends on the size and location of the existing restoration (filling), and broken or diseased (carious) tooth. Although there is still a place in dentistry for the resin filling, porcelain is normally the restoration of choice because of its longevity and biocompatibility with the body. In addition, porcelain has thermal and expansion coefficients similar to our own enamel. (This means the porcelain will not expand and contract due to temperature changes of the things we eat and drink.) You should see your dentist to discuss this and determine the best filling option for you.
We know mercury is toxic and poisonous. At a time when we are all starting to pay more attention and live healthier lifestyles, we should know more about harmful elements in our lives. It's simple: you can't have a healthy body with an unhealthy mouth containing mercury.
It's time to start respecting your mouth and rethink what you put into it. It's important to choose your dentist and your dental care with more thoughtful consideration. Would you eat a piece of mercury contaminated sushi? Would you let your child play with a mercury ball? Then ask yourself: why would anyone have a mercury filling in their mouth? Or why would anyone allow a dentist to put mercury fillings in their child's mouth?
Once we ask ourselves these questions and understand the effects of mercury fillings, we can make decisions that are going to be the best choice for our body and overall health.
John VanCamp, DDS is a holistic dentist practicing in San Francisco, CA. He offers alternatives to mercury amalgam fillings and advice about removing them from your mouth. For more information call 415-397-4233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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