My first awareness of controversy surrounding the use of dental amalgam fillings arose in the mid-1980s on viewing a short ‘before and after’ video clip of a young girl who had suffered from epilepsy. She couldn’t have been more than 8 years old and for a number of years had experienced seizures every 10 minutes of her life that were uncontrollable by medication. Of course, the punch line is that immediately after the removal of the one amalgam filling placed in her mouth years before, the seizures stopped completely, never to return.
The man who created the video, a dentist named Hal Huggins, has been at the forefront of the movement to educate both the dental profession and the public about the dangers posed by dental amalgams, and an advocate of a legal ban on their use. (Such a ban is already in force in both Sweden and Denmark.)
His book, “It’s All In Your Head: the link between Mercury Amalgams and Illness”, written in the late 80’s, was the first of a number of books aimed at the general public published on the topic over the last several decades. What was a first lone cry in the wilderness has slowly built into a chorus of voices espousing a similar viewpoint.
Quite frankly, why there is any controversy over the issue is somewhat beyond me. Well, I take that back: the idea that smoking was bad for one’s health was once controversial, too. In both cases, there was a powerful interest, the tobacco industry in one and the American Dental Association in the other, whose best interest, in terms of finances and litigation, was to deny and dissemble.
But the fact of the matter is a modicum of common sense tells one that they can’t be good for you. As they are currently composed, amalgams are about 50% mercury. The rest is a powder of silver, tin, copper and zinc.
Mercury, of course, is one of the most toxic substances known to mankind. It becomes a vapor at body temperature and is absorbed throughout the body, having a special affinity for the nervous system but also many other body tissues. It also penetrates the placental barrier, so the effects are passed on to the fetus.
Not only is mercury absorbed, but it also accumulates in body tissues. That can make it difficult to test for unless one examines the tissues themselves. While it sometimes is secreted in the urine, that is not always the case and blood tests are also not indicative. There are tests using drugs that bind to the mercury (and other heavy metals), and which is then excreted via the urine. But this itself can be fairly toxic to the body. Sometimes hair samples are used, but that is not always reliable because the hair is exposed to external substances in the atmosphere. Complicating matters further, there are different types of mercury compounds to which we are exposed. For instance, methyl-mercury is an organo-metallic compound found in fish which is different than the elemental mercury in fillings. Various forms of testing might reveal one kind but not another.
The list of health problems connected to mercury exposure is extensive, including impaired cognition and memory, tremors, psychotic delirium, suicidal ideation, shyness, neurodegenerative diseases (think MS, alzheimers, ALS, Parkinsons), impaired lung function, ulceration, dental cavities & gum disease, skin rashes, herpes, swollen lymph glands, and cancer.
That is why we are often discouraged to eat too much fish, why we can’t buy mercury thermometers anymore and why such great cautions are taken in dental offices to avoid direct contact with mercury as well as to rid the air of its vapors.
Historically, mercury appears to have been a good choice for filling material because it is malleable, easy to combine with other substances and makes for a fairly durable filling. One still hears that mercury amalgam makes for a better filling substance than the composite fillings which are being in its place because it lasts longer.
And, there are some interested parties who still maintain that once ‘safely’ placed in a tooth, mercury does not affect any other body tissues. But there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. To begin with, one can just hop on the internet to watch videos of mercury vapors being released as a person chews with amalgam filled teeth.
There is, in addition, a fair amount of science available about amalgam toxicity, too. In Sweden, a study showed a clear correlation between mercury levels in the brain and kidneys and the number of amalgam fillings. Urinary mercury excretion was significantly higher in persons with amalgam in several other studies. Yet another study showed that amalgams placed in monkey’s teeth was absorbed and accumulated in the brain, kidney, lung, liver, GI tract and hormone glands.1
Medical applications of mercury are nothing new. Well before it was used for filling teeth, which began during the first half of the 19th century, mercury had been the preferred treatment for treat syphilis for many centuries dating back to the middle-ages.
Partly for those reasons, homeopaths were quite aware of the potentially devastating effects of mercurial treatments from early on, making detailed studies of the symptoms they could cause as well as devising treatments to counteract them. Even in the modern homeopathic repertory – a compendium of symptoms with the remedies that could potentially treat those symptoms, there are over one hundred listings of symptoms related to the ‘abuse of mercury’.
Significantly, a study of these symptoms as well as the experiments performed with homeopathic dilutions of mercury give a pretty good picture of its toxicity and are a useful reference when assessing the possibility that a particular person is mercury toxic. Usually, well before a person develops an overt pathology, be it MS, Parkinsons, ALS, senile dementia, cancer, Crohns disease, autism, Turrets syndrome or any number of autoimmune illnesses, mercury induced symptoms will appear.
One of the most common signs is a tendency toward infection. The infection could be fungal, viral, or bacterial and tends to be chronic. The infection isn’t necessarily always active, but can be latent showing up periodically from time to time. This could be the person with repeated herpetic eruptions, yeast outbreaks, obstinate candidiasis, fungal skin rash, nail fungus or lingering bacterial infections.
Interestingly, it has been theorized that these infections are actually a form of defense against the mercury. The eruptions and discharges act as a type of vent to eliminate the mercury from the system. If this is indeed the case, then symptomatic treatment, which stops the infection without eliminating the cause, merely shuts off the vent (usually temporarily) and can make the patient even sicker over the long term.
Other symptoms that might hint at mercury toxicity include: receding or bleeding gums, increased salivation and/or perspiration, tongue (or any muscle ) tremor, thick white tongue coating, unstable temperature control, any number of skin problems including rashes and eczema, unstable body temperatures – hot/cold, increased urination at night, swollen glands, dilation and/or contraction of pupils, poor memory and/or focus, stutter, restlessness, emotional withdrawal and self-destructive thoughts or actions. (Dentists are said to have the highest suicide rate of any of the professions…)
Although in the vast majority of cases, having dental amalgams removed is a beneficial – or even critical – step one can take to maintain or regain health, I have found that there often is a great deal of resistance to doing so.
Since mercury poisoning has such a vast and variable group of symptoms associated with, a direct causal connection between any particular health condition and mercury toxicity is not always clear. In addition, depending on the extent of exposure and the organic tissue damage already in place, there is no guarantee that once removed there will be dramatic changes in terms of symptoms.
On the other hand, I encourage my patients by suggesting one of two things: if they already have a clear pathology, then reducing the load of heavy metal toxicity can only help their immune system and help prevent a worsening of their condition, or, if there is no overt pathology yet, the best outcome is that they will never know how good it was for them, that they will never know what possible illnesses they avoided by acting proactively.
Of course, there is also the matter of cost. Dental care, as we all know, doesn’t come cheap. One or two fillings are doable, but a mouthful of metal can run into the thousands. Unfortunately that mouth is the one that needs it the most.
A third factor is finding a suitable dentist to do the job. Although many, or even most, avoid using mercury amalgam these days, there are few that are truly knowledgeable about the issue and have learned the full protocols involved with removing it. Done poorly, amalgam removal can actually make a person sick – or sicker.
One needs to look for a ‘Biological Dentist’, a ‘Whole Body Dentist’ or a ‘Wholistic Dentist’. These terms indicate that there is an understanding that dental care isn’t merely about good teeth and a nice smile, but is a crucial part of one’s overall health. Fortunately, the number of these more enlightened dentists is growing.
Along with finding a dentist, before, during and after removal, there are also important protocols to draw out residual mercury from various tissues throughout the entire body. They range from diet to nutritional supplementation to botanical medicines to homeopathic preparations, and implementation can best be accomplished by searching out a competent healthcare provider versed in these protocols.
All in all, it may be a challenging task, but it is one well worth it.