Dental amalgams, also called “silver fillings,” have long been controversial because of the potential health risks associated with exposure to mercury. While most mainstream dentists still believe mercury exposure from dental amalgam fillings is too low to worry about, a small but growing number of dentists are practicing mercury-free dentistry, also known as biologic dentistry. Dentists who practice biologic or mercury-free dentistry seek to always utilize the safest, least toxic dental treatments. They are particularly vigilant about never using mercury-containing dental amalgams. Because of the potential health risks associated with mercury, they promote the removal of mercury-containing fillings for those patients who already have silver amalgams; and they use safer alternative materials to fill cavities.
“Silver” amalgams are 50% mercury
The “silver” amalgam fillings still widely used in mainstream dentistry are 50% mercury. Large fillings may contain as much mercury as a thermometer. Mercury inside the mouth vaporizes easily, becoming an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas which is then inhaled and readily absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, mercury gets distributed throughout the body, concentrating in organs—including the brain. Dental amalgams are a major source of mercury exposure.The more amalgam fillings you have, the more mercury you have stored in your body.[2,3] Individuals with 7 or more amalgam fillings have 30% to 50% higher urinary mercury levels than an individual without amalgams.
The alarming health risks of mercury
Mercury is the most toxic heavy metal and a powerful poison. Exposure to even minute amounts of mercury poses significant risks to human health. The World Health Organization warns that mercury “… may cause harmful effects to the nervous, digestive, respiratory, immune systems and to the kidneys, besides causing lung damage. Adverse health effects from mercury exposure can be: tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, emotional instability, developmental deficits during fetal development, and attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood. Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.”
Since mercury vapor is continuously emitted from dental fillings, it accumulates in the body over time and the damaging effects may not manifest for years or even decades. Overall, the amount of mercury released from dental amalgams is enough to sound the alarm among numerous experts, and medical organizations that oppose the use of mercury in dentistry have grown. “The research…has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that dental amalgam is a source of significant mercury exposure, and a hazard to health,” according to the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, a network of dentists, physicians and medical researchers working to continually examine and compile scientific research relating to the safety of dental materials like mercury amalgams.
The removal of mercury fillings
Mercury-free dentists never use mercury to fill cavities and generally believe you should have your mercury-containing fillings removed (unless you are pregnant or lactating). Ideally, these dentists are properly trained in mercury filling removal. Patients are advised to ask their dentist about following certain safety protocols for amalgam removal. For example, there are specialized suction systems to help contain mercury particles and vapors during removal. The patient and dental staff should be provided with a mercury-free source of air while the amalgam is removed in large segments to minimize the vapor and particles.
How to find a mercury-free dentist
Many dentists practicing mercury-free dentistry are members of certain organizations such as the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, mentioned above. You can utilize their website to search for dentists in your area who are members. Or search in our Doctor Directory and select “Mercury Free Dentistry”, “Holistic Dentistry” or “Mercury Amalgam Filling Removal” in the “Select an Additional Practice Specialty” search box. You can begin today to address your body’s levels of this insidious but potent toxin.