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Filling A Need For Mercury-Amalgam Facts
By Jeff Clark & Sandy Duffy
Consumers for Dental Choice NW
(download printable PDF version of this article)

Dentistry has perpetrated an uncontrolled multi-generational mercury experiment on the American people. Mercury-amalgam dental fillings have never been subjected to the kind of regulatory scrutiny and approval process demanded of all modern drugs and medical devices to prove safety. Only in the last few years have controlled experiments with animals been conducted by non-dentists in an attempt to estimate what we humans have already been experiencing over the past 150+ years of mercury-amalgam.

The American Dental Association's (ADA) origin derives from the controversy of using mercury for tooth fillings. Before mercury-amalgam became the standard of dental practice only the rich could afford gold fillings -- the rest of us went to the barber for tooth extraction. Mercury-amalgam enabled dentists to place many more much lower costing tooth fillings per day. This efficiency produced an ever-widening number of people who could afford professional dental services.

The division that killed the original dental association and formed today's ADA was between those who were concerned for the public's health from the poisonous mercury release, and those who had dollar signs in their eyes [1]. Money won.

Until this day dentistry has used marketing, political influence, and control of regulatory boards at all levels to impose its self-serving economic view that mercury-amalgam is completely safe. The science that proves safety is still not forthcoming from the ADA, nor from dental schools, nor from mercury-amalgam manufacturers.

Marketing has long been dentistry's first line of defense for its use of mercury. The true nature of mercury-amalgam has been disguised with the soothing label "silver filling". Efforts to gain the public's trust and confidence have imposed high psychological barriers. For many people conditioned to trusting, it is too unbelievable, too egregious to even consider the possibility that their dentist has been poisoning them with mercury.

Science has not been the driving force behind the ADA's public information on mercury release. When asked about the safety of mercury amalgam the response one always heard previously, and can still hear today in many dental offices is: "once set, the mercury becomes completely stable and locked up, it doesn't leak out". After it was unequivocally demonstrated that mercury vapor continuously escapes from mercury-amalgam fillings the ADA repositioned itself and now claims: "the small amount of mercury released from amalgam restorations, especially during placement and removal, has not been shown to cause any adverse health effects." [2]

This last position statement made in 1997 is the one we are living under today, adopted by the dentists at the ADA, FDI World Dental Federation, and the World Health Organization in a consensus agreement.

This position is at odds with what scientists independent of the dental industry have been learning by studying amalgam mercury exposure and uptake in humans and animals.

Mercury escapes from amalgam and is taken up by the human as metallic vapor, metallic vapor and ionic mercury dissolved in saliva, and as unknown mercury species directly through the tooth pulp and root into the bloodstream.[3] Ionic mercury in saliva is converted to methylmercury.[4]

The more competent human studies on exposure have looked at the amount of mercury vapor in an individual's mouth, mercury in their saliva, mercury in their urine and feces, and compared that to individuals who have never had any mercury-amalgam fillings. There is an extreme range of dental mercury exposure and uptake from person to person. The high end of the range reaches 100 micrograms of mercury uptake per day in a single individual. That any individuals can be found with such high daily mercury exposure and uptake from their mercury-amalgam dental fillings is cause for alarm.[5] [6] [7] [8]

Animal experiments with amalgam produce further cause for alarm. There are genetically determined susceptibilities to mercury-caused systemic illness. Some animal strains are highly sensitive with quite noticeable trace mineral disturbances and immune system activation after mercury-amalgams are placed into their teeth. Other strains are highly resistant with only small pathological changes observed in response to mercury-amalgam.[9]

In genetically susceptible animals mercury concentrations in the same range as received from mercury-amalgams have been found to cause autoimmune disease, inhibiting and disturbing immune system functions.[10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

Mercury concentrations as received from mercury-amalgam are toxic to human brain cells forming neurofibrillar tangles, amyloid placques and causing tau phosphorylation in susceptible tissue cultures. [15] [16] [17] These three phenomena are the primary diagnostic characteristics a pathologist looks for in a deceased person's brain to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Mercury travels from amalgam fillings into the jaw, gut, liver, kidneys, glands and brain, crosses the placenta to the fetus, and is found in mother's milk.[18] [19] [20] [21] [22]

Dental mercury exposure in the genetically diverse and free living human population has been an uncontrolled experiment. This makes it presently difficult to prove in the absolute scientific sense that dental amalgam directly causes human health conditions beyond contact allergy and oral lichen planus. [23] [24]

This situation will change over time as genetic markers are identified for predisposition to autoimmune diseases such as MS [25], ALS [26], Lupus [27], and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimers [28] -- allowing meaningful mercury -amalgam case-control studies to be conducted within these susceptible sub-populations of humans.

New diagnostic tests characterizing human immune cells are already showing a strong correlation between immune activation against dental mercury and chronic fatigue syndromes.[29]

Young athletes that die suddenly from Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy have been shown to have 22,000 times as much mercury in their heart tissues as do patients with other cardiac conditions. [30]

Meanwhile there is an ever growing number of case reports of people receiving spontaneous remissions from a wide range of idiopathic maladies -- primarily by having mercury-amalgam dental fillings safely removed from their teeth. These experiences have led to the formation of patients' groups such as "Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome" (DAMS). [31]

These case reports and the current scientific evidence cry out that there is a grievous problem with mercury-amalgam dental fillings. The Hippocratic Oath commits all dentists to the conservative approach of "first do no harm". Mercury-amalgam dentistry has systematically not been living up to this pledge. The ADA cannot now reverse its position on safety without admitting fault and incurring enormous financial liability for itself and its members. Dentistry's self-serving negligence and dishonesty with mercury-amalgam "silver" fillings has put us and our children at risk.

The United States needs to pass laws to ban mercury dental fillings as soon as possible. Until that legislation is signed, the public must have the right to know about the mercury before it is placed into their teeth, to choose non-mercury fillings, and to pay the same out of pocket fee for non-mercury fillings as they would for a mercury-amalgam.


References

1 Hardy James E, D.M.D.; "Dentistry: Stepping Out of the 1830'S"; http://www.davidhoward.com.au/Article4.html

2
ADA Statement on Dental Amalgam; http://www.ada.org/prof/prac/issues/statements/amalgam.html

3 Engqvist et al.,"Speciation of mercury excreted in feces from individuals with amalgam fillings.", Arch Environ Health, 53(3):205-13, (May-Jun 1998)

4 Leistevuo J et al., "Dental amalgam fillings and the amount of organic mercury in human saliva.", Caries Res, 35(3):163-6 (2001 May-Jun)

5 Skare et. al, "Human exposure to mercury and silver released from dental amalgam", Archives of Environmental Health: 49(5):384-94, (Sept-Oct.,1994)

6 Weiner JA, Nylander M., "An estimation of the uptake of mercury from amalgam fillings based on urinary excretion of mercury in Swedish subjects", Sci Total Environ, 168(3):255-65, (Jun 30, 1995)

7 Barregard L, et al., "People with high mercury uptake from their own dental amalgam fillings."; Occup Environ Med, 52(2):124-8, (Feb, 1995)

8 Langworth S, Stromberg R., "A case of high mercury exposure from dental amalgam", Eur J Oral Sci, 104(3):320-1, (Jun 1996)

9 Hultman et al, "Activation of the immune system and systemic immune-complex deposits in Brown Norway rats with dental amalgam restorations", J Dent Res, 77(6):1415-25, (Jun 1998)

10 Abedi-Valugerdi M, Hansson M, Moller G., "Genetic control of resistance to mercury-induced immune/autoimmune activation", Scand J Immunol, 54(1-2):190-7 (Jul-Aug 2001)

11 Bigazzi PE., "Metals and kidney autoimmunity", Environ Health Perspect, 107 Suppl 5:753-65, (Oct 1999)

12 Bagenstose LM, et al, "Murine mercury-induced autoimmunity: a model of chemically related autoimmunity in humans", Immunol Res, 20(1):67-78, (1999)

13 Johansson U, et al, "The genotype determines the B cell response in mercury-treated mice", Int Arch Allergy Immunol, 116(4):295-305, (Aug 1998)

14 Moszczynski P, "Mercury compounds and the immune system: a review", Int J Occup Med Environ Health, 10(3):247-58, (1997)

15 Olivieri G, et al, "Mercury induces cell cytotoxicity and oxidative stress and increases beta-amyloid secretion and tau phosphorylation in SHSY5Y neuroblastoma cells", J Neurochem, 74(1):231-6, (Jan 2000)

16 Pendergrass JC, Haley BE, "Inhibition of brain tubulin-guanosine 5'-triphosphate interactions by mercury: similarity to observations in Alzheimer's diseased brain", Met Ions Biol Syst, 34:461-78, (1997)

17 Pendergrass JC, et al., "Mercury vapor inhalation inhibits binding of GTP to tubulin in rat brain: similarity to a molecular lesion in Alzheimer diseased brain", Neurotoxicology, 18(2):315-24, (1997)

18 Vimy MJ, et al., "Mercury from maternal "silver" tooth fillings in sheep and human breast milk. A source of neonatal exposure", Biol Trace Elem Res, 56(2):143-52, (Feb 1997)

19 Takahashi Y, et al., "Release of mercury from dental amalgam fillings in pregnant rats and distribution of mercury in maternal and fetal tissues" Toxicology, 21;163(2-3):115-26, (Jun 2001)

20 Hahn LJ, et al., "Whole-body imaging of the distribution of mercury released from dental fillings into monkey tissues", FASEB J, 4(14):3256-60, (Nov 1990)

21 Vimy MJ, et al., "Maternal-fetal distribution of mercury (203Hg) released from dental amalgam fillings", Am J Physiol, 258(4 Pt 2):R939-45, (Apr 1990 )

22 Hahn LJ, et al., "Dental "silver" tooth fillings: a source of mercury exposure revealed by whole-body image scan and tissue analysis", FASEB J, 3(14):2641-6, (Dec 1989)

23 Kanerva L, et al., "A multicenter study of patch test reactions with dental screening series", Am J Contact Dermat, 12(2):83-7, (Jun 2001)

24 McGivern B, et al., "Delayed and immediate hypersensitivity reactions associated with the use of amalgam", Br Dent J, 22;188(2):73-6, (Jan 2000)

25 Xu C, et al., "Linkage analysis in multiple sclerosis of chromosomal regions syntenic to experimental autoimmune disease loci", Eur J Hum Genet, 9(6):458-63, (Jun 2001)

26 Robberecht W, "Genetic markers of ALS", Amyotroph Lateral Scler Other Motor Neuron Disord, 1 Suppl 2:S57-9, (Jun 2000)

27 Graham RR, et al., "Genetic linkage and transmission disequilibrium of marker haplotypes at chromosome 1q41 in human systemic lupus erythematosus", Arthritis Res, 3(5):299-305, 2001

28 Poduslo SE, Yin X, "Chromosome 12 and late-onset Alzheimer's disease", Neurosci Lett, 14;310(2-3):188-90, (Sep 2001)

29 McGivern B, et al.,"Delayed and immediate hypersensitivity reactions associated with the use of amalgam", Br Dent J, 22;188(2):73-6 (Jan 2000)

30
MELISA Medica Foundation; http://www.melisa.org

31 Frustaci A, et al., "Marked elevation of myocardial trace elements in idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy compared with secondary cardiac dysfunction", J Am Coll Cardiol, 33(6):1578-83, (May 1999)

32 Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome (DAMS); http://www.amalgam.org/