Dangers of mercury fillings

Mercury Rising

Chances are you have a highly toxic substance in your mouth right now.

If you’ve ever had a tooth cavity treated with a silver filling, then you have mercury in your mouth. Silver fillings contain a mix of silver, zinc, copper and tin, which are amalgamated with mercury. After a cavity is filled, mercury makes up about half of a typical “silver” filling. The dangers of mercury fillings.

Is the mercury a problem? Not according to an Internet Broadcasting Systems (IBS) report published last week under this headline: “Smile! Fillings With Mercury Not Harmful, Study Says”

Ah, but if we had a nickel for every questionable study that was heralded as the “last word,” we’d live next door to Bill Gates.

Two for two

In the February 2006 issue of the HSI Members Alert, Kathryn Mays Wright wrote, “Numerous studies conducted in the 1970s and 80s proved conclusively that the mercury from fillings leaks into your body when you chew, ending up in your lungs, heart, stomach, kidneys, endocrine glands, gastrointestinal tract, jaw tissue, and brain.”

That unsettling list is almost as bad as the list of health issues that have been associated with mercury exposure: neurological problems, immune system suppression, birth defects, high blood pressure and chronic fatigue, to name a few.

The research mentioned in the IBS report is actually just one of two very similar studies that appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Both studies examined more than 500 children to assess the effects of amalgam fillings. And in both studies, about half of the children received amalgam fillings, while the others received resin composite fillings.

One study, which followed the kids for seven years, found that amalgam was not associated with any neurobehavioral problems. The other, which followed the subjects for five years, found no adverse neuropsychological outcomes, no effect on IQ scores and no kidney problems among children with amalgams.

In the world of research, five years qualifies as a long-term study. But how long have you had amalgam fillings in your mouth? Decades? So how can these studies possibly be conclusive after just five and seven years?

Simply put: These studies don’t offer enough evidence to make sweeping claims like, “Fillings With Mercury Not Harmful.”

Toxic reputation

I had a feeling that HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., would have some choice words about these new studies. When I checked in with him, he sent me these comments.

“They can do all the studies they want, but there has never been an argument, from ANY source, government or otherwise, concerning the toxicity of mercury. It is an EXTREMELY toxic substance. Those ubiquitous mercury thermometers have been OUTLAWED, for Pete’s sake! Even dentists are taught special handling techniques concerning the substance for their own safety (forget the patient).

“Mercury has an extremely high vapor pressure that lasts for years. And federal guidelines will close down work sites that have experienced a mercury spill.

“Mixing mercury with silver does nothing to cancel out mercury’s toxicity. No one has ever offered a mechanism by which silver mixing ‘detoxifies’ the stuff. So how come it’s so safe all of a sudden once it’s jammed into a person’s mouth?

“Also, isn’t it funny that the ADA (American Dental Association) has quietly stopped pushing the use of dental amalgam? New dentists almost exclusively use the ‘unnecessary’ composites now. Can you imagine the liability suits if anyone officially admitted the dangers of a highly toxic substance that a national professional organization has been promoting for a hundred years (and pumping into millions of mouths)?

“The studies in question are awfully short for looking at something like IQs and nerve damage (even assuming they weren’t biased).”

If we could fast-forward to 2046 and assess IQs and neuropsychological outcomes of those 1,000+ subjects, we might have a much more realistic picture of amalgam effects. Meanwhile, there are two things that everyone with amalgam fillings can do that may minimize their mercury exposure: avoid excessive intake of hot beverages, and, if possible, overcome bruxism (grinding of teeth, usually during sleep).

In the e-Alert “Quicksilver” (12/19/02), HSI Panelist Richard Cohan, D.D.S., M.S., M.B.A., shared his opinion that people who grind their teeth incessantly, or others who drink hot beverages throughout the day, may be releasing unhealthy amounts of mercury from their fillings.

“Smile! Fillings With Mercury Not Harmful, Study Says” Internet Broadcasting Systems, 4/18/06, thewbalchannel.com
“Neurobehavioral Effects of Dental Amalgam in Children” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 295, No. 15, 4/19/06, jama.ama-assn.org
“Neuropsychological and Renal Effects of Dental Amalgam in Children” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 295, No. 15, 4/19/06, jama.ama-assn.org
“Can Mercury-Silver Fillings Cause Disease? King James Medical Laboratory, Inc., dentalwellness.net