By Dr Hisham
Most people over 35 have some (or many) black metal fillings. Most of us hate them and many believe they are dangerous for their health. Many authorities [like the American, Australian and New Zealand dental Associations] and dentists tell us they are safe and good for fixing teeth. Who is right? Here are a few facts and conclusions based on my long research and experience, to help you make up your own mind about amalgam fillings.
• Dental Amalgam (silver mercury) fillings have been used for over 150 years now and the debate about their safety has been going on for 100 years!
• Mercury is a toxic heavy metal, like lead (which was banned from petrol and paint due to its serious toxicity to humans).
• Mercury batteries are being phased out worldwide due to their environmental toxicity.
• Mercury in large fish is a serious hazard to people eating that kind of fish regularly.
• Dentistry is estimated to contribute up to 70% of the total mercury load entering wastewater treatment facilities. Many dentists let out amalgam debris through suction into the sewage pipes without special separators to filter the mercury amalgam.
• Mercury that is changed into methylmercury by bacteria is more dangerous to humans. Breathing mercury vapour is also very dangerous.
• Amalgam fillings are 50 per cent mercury and release different amounts of mercury vapor and interact with bacteria in the mouth all the time. They corrode over time (they turn black from silver) as they are soaked in saliva and worsen when there are other metals in the mouth (like stainless steels pins, gold crowns, cheap metal alloy crowns and others). The amount of mercury released is variable and its effects are even more variable and difficult to measure.
• Authorities consider amalgam that is removed from the mouth as hazardous. They advise dentists should keep this toxic waste in sealed containers under a fixer liquid to limit vapours, until professionally collected and recycled. It is not to be thrown into the normal rubbish.
• An individual’s susceptibility to mercury toxicity is as variable as other health risks facing a population. Most people will not know about a health risk until they get sick! For example, it is well publicised that lead in petrol and paint is banned, as well as the use of asbestos products in the building industry. Most people who are exposed to these toxins are still alive and well, but enough people in the population have fallen sick or died from exposure to lead or asbestos to prompt a ban on these products for everyone’s safety.
Recently the FDA in the United States released a final rule classifying dental mercury amalgam as a class II device (more risk). They regulated that dentists should inform patients that mercury is present and there is a possibility of harm. It should not be used in people with metal allergies to mercury, silver, copper or tin. It is not to touch other metals in the mouth. The American Dental Association and New Zealand Dental associations released statements that they still consider it safe for general use. Sweden, Denmark and Norway have banned amalgam fillings totally and some other European countries are restricting its use (mainly in children, pregnant women and chronically ill patients). The rest of the world is still endorsing amalgam use, and a lot of universities still train students to use amalgam fillings, which they continue to practice after graduation.
I have not placed an amalgam filling in a human’s mouth since I graduated as a dentist. I ceased doing so when I finished my compulsory quota of amalgam fillings that had to be done in a dental faculty. I had my own amalgam fillings safely removed and replaced with Porcelain (Cerec) restorations and did the same for my family. These decisions were made based on my understanding that anything with such a toxicity risk should be avoided, especially when there are better alternatives.
Admittedly amalgam is the easiest dental filling material to use with low skill and it is very cheap. It also lasts a long time in the mouth, until, typically, the tooth cracks and breaks around it. Better options came about with the invention of bonding, and include composites and porcelain restorations. That said these are more expensive and difficult to work with (hence the need for advanced training and skills). Dentists and patients both have to make a choice, and sometimes reality overpowers the ideal scenario. That does not mean we shouldn’t have an ideal to work toward; otherwise we will never make progress.
My ideal is to help people become aware of all health risks and how to manage them, in order to avoid disease and illness. However, when people do suffer a dental problem, the best and least hazardous materials and techniques should be used to help them back into health and normal function.
Remember, always seek health rather than fight disease.
Have a lovely day and enjoy your health with passion.