Silver Fillings - More Toxic than Lead

by Joyal Taylor, D.D.S.

Silver fillings (amalgams) contain 50% mercury, the most toxic heavy metal of all. Dentists are not required to tell you about the mercury component unless, of course, you ask.

But have you ever asked your dentist what's in a filling? If you're like most people, it has never occurred to you to ask. You simply assumed certain things. You probably took it for granted that, if something is called a silver filling, it must mean that it is made of the heavy metal silver. The truth is that the material is called silver filling because it is silver in color, not because it contains the metal silver.

What makes the material silver colored? Mercury, which is a silver colored heavy metal. There is a little silver metal in the filling too, but only about 25%. There is also a little copper, tin, and zinc. But one half of every silver filling is composed of mercury and that's what imparts the silver color, thus the name silver filling.

Why then is the material called silver filling if it is basically composed of mercury? Because, if dentists called it mercury filling, who would want it? Most people have heard that mercury is a poison. Most of us were told as children not to play with mercury because it wasn't safe. People would no more want a mercury filling than they would want a lead filling or an arsenic filling. Calling it a silver filling makes it seem to be safe.

Mercury Leaches Out of Your Silver Fillings
There are four ways mercury gets into your body from silver fillings. First, you can absorb it through the stomach lining. You inadvertently swallow pieces of the filling that break away from the margin as it ages. Second, it is absorbed directly into the roots, bones, and gums surrounding the tooth. Third, it is absorbed through the nerve endings and blood vessels of the nose. Fourth, and most importantly, it is absorbed through your lungs as mercury vapor (gas) that is constantly release from the filling.

There is an instrument, called the Jerome Mercury Vapor Analyzer, that measures mercury vapor in air. It takes a ten second sample of air through a small tube and instantly analyses for mercury content. Some dentists use it to demonstrate the amount of mercury vapor in your mouth that is escaping from your fillings. Only a few dentists have this instrument probably because it is expensive and not required of them to purchase.

The Jerome Mercury Vapor Analyzer is used by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), the United States Navy, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). OSHA uses it to test mercury vapor levels of businesses that use mercury, for example, thermometer manufacturing companies. If levels are above a certain amount, those companies will be fined $10,000 and closed until safer levels can be established. OSHA's maximum allowable level for mercury vapor is 50 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m) of air. This number usually has no significance to most people until they see the amount of mercury vapor in their own mouths. For people with several silver fillings, the average levels are 10-150 mcg/m. Levels as high as 400 mcg/m have been reported for some people.

The EPA uses 1 mcg/m as the maximum allowable limit for air in a public building or for air in your home. Almost everyone, who has silver fillings in their teeth, will show levels of mercury vapor in their mouth above that limit.

Unfortunately, no governmental agency is in a position to establish and enforce a maximum allowable limit of mercury vapor in a person's mouth. Because of this, dentists cannot recommend the removal of your silver fillings based on high levels of mercury vapor in your mouth. This may not seem fair but that's the way it is for now.

Of course, just because a dentist can't recommend the removal of your silver fillings, doesn't mean you can't request to have them replaced. You can. It is your right to have whatever you want or don't want in your teeth. Many people have exercised that right and asked their dentists to replace their silver fillings with non-mercury alternatives such as porcelain, gold, or composite (plastic).

Toxic Side Effects of Mercury
Mercury is more toxic than arsenic, cadmium, or even lead. There is no known biological need for mercury in the body, not even in trace amounts. It is poisonous not only in its pure form but also in combination with other substances.

A poison is any substance that impairs, injures, or kills an organism by its chemical action. All scientific authorities agree that mercury is poisonous to human tissue. It causes severe biochemical injury to living cells.

Mercury accumulates in the body. Once absorbed it is unable to be excreted easily. It accumulates in all tissues but especially in the brain, kidney, liver, heart, pituitary, and thyroid glands. No one knows how little mercury it takes to cause damage to human tissue.

On a biochemical level mercury interferes in several metabolic pathways. For example, sulfur is inactivated by mercury. Sulfur is found all over the body but particularly in enzymes, hormones, nervous tissue, and red blood cells. Mercury also causes DNA (genes) to get out of sequence. That causes cells to malfunction and sometimes die. Mercury in the body affects the salt balance and thyroid function. It competes with magnesium thus interfering in the body's immune system. It also reacts with calcium in energy producing organelles within cells. Mercury competes with selenium which is an essential component in proteins and enzymes.

Mercury interferes in so many biological pathways that it is easy to understand why there are so many symptoms from mercury poisoning. It can be a factor in decreased energy, chronic infections, insulin deficiency, emotional problems, birth defects, and a host of other health symptoms.

The oral cavity is especially susceptible to the effects of mercury. Metallic taste, increased flow of saliva, enlarged tongue and glands, gum disease, bad breath, mouth ulcers, and bleeding gums can all be caused by mercury.

Health Problems Associated With Mercury
Psychological Symptoms: anxiety, depression, irritability, short-term memory loss
Cardiovascular System: irregular heartbeat, tachycardia, chest pain
Central Nervous System: chronic headaches, tingling in extremities, ringing in ears
Digestive System: constipation, diarrhea, ulcers
Endocrine System: cold hands and feet, leg cramps, frequent urination
Energy Related Symptoms: chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, over-sleeping
Immune System: allergies, candida albicans, Epstein-Barr virus
Oral Cavity: bad breath, bleeding gums, metallic taste in mouth, chronic sore throat
Miscellaneous: kidney damage, unexplained skin rashes

Catastrophic Mercury Outbreaks
The literature is full of incidences of mercury poisoning. For example, mercury miners are known for their early retirement because of inhaled mercury vapor during their mining activities. Some develop tremors and have to undergo rigorous sweat therapy. Some are pensioned early and cannot walk or feed themselves. A few shake so violently that they must be strapped into their beds.

During the 19th century, workers in the felt hat industry dipped furs into vats of mercury to soften them for shaping. They not only inhaled mercury vapor but they also absorbed mercury through their skin while handling the furs. They experienced loosening of teeth, difficulty in walking, mental disability, and incoherent speech. Legend has it that the "Mad Hatter" in Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was patterned after such a victim.

It was in 1953 that the world was abruptly introduced to the deadly effects of mercury on a large scale basis. That year in Minamata, Japan, the residents began to fall victim to a mysterious and catastrophic disease. Dozens of people were injured and some died. It took authorities three years to recognize the reason for the epidemic: fish contaminated with mercury.

A company that manufactured vinyl chloride was dumping its byproducts into the bay. The byproducts contained mercury which was easily absorbed by fish in the area. Since Minamata was a fishing village, the principle food for the residents was fish. By the time the authorities discovered the cause of this epidemic, 46 people had died and hundreds more were permanently disabled.

Many of the children born to mothers who had eaten the contaminated fish were born deformed and mentally retarded. This was a clear indication that mercury even crosses the placental barrier.

There have been other mercury poisonings in Japan, Sweden, Iraq, and the United States. These and other outbreaks have helped scientists realize the devastating health problems caused by mercury. Effects of mercury may be subtle at first. Some symptoms do not surface for several months or years. But one thing is clear. Mercury is destructive to the brain, nervous system, and practically all organs throughout the body.

If you had a slow leak of lead inside your house, what would you do about it? You would first find where the leak was coming from and then eliminate it, wouldn't you? Of course you would, if you cared about your health.

Everyone knows about the poisonous effects of lead. It has been a frequent topic of concern for years. Lead was removed from gasoline because of pollution from automobile exhaust. It was removed from household paint because it vaporizes and people can breath it inside their home. Water from our faucets has been a problem; contamination with lead from the pipes.

Not everyone understands that mercury causes many of the same health problems as lead. The difference is that mercury is even more poisonous than lead. If you have silver fillings in your teeth, you are being exposed to a slow leak of mercury. This situation is worse than a slow leak of lead in your house because, with silver fillings, you're exposed to mercury for 24 hours/day. You can't escape it.

The use of mercury in dentistry has been a raging debate for 170 years. In recent years the controversy became so heated that U.S. legislators began introducing laws called informed consent. These laws when passed will require any dentist who places silver filling to tell the patient beforehand of the mercury content. Organized dentistry has lobbied against these laws and published biased, questionable, and unscientific literature.

Those events prompted me to write my book which is titled, "The Complete Guide to Mercury Toxicity from Dental Fillings". It allows you to see both sides of the controversy and decide for yourself if you are willing to assume the risks of having mercury in your mouth.

You have the right to know the composition of your dental fillings. You should be aware of the drawbacks as well as the advantages of any dental procedure you are considering. You should be told that mercury is in silver fillings and that mercury is a poison. You should be the one to decide about your dentistry after you have been informed of any potential risks; not the dentist.

You must ask yourself if having silver fillings in your teeth is worth the risks. In recent years, some have chosen to have their silver fillings replaced with safer materials. Many have reported health improvements.

If you want your silver fillings replaced, be careful which dentist you choose. You and your dentist should be aware that, during the removal procedure, massive amounts of mercury vapor are released from the filling. Heat and friction from the drill causes mercury in the filling to vaporize and be released into the air in the room. You and your dentist will breath these high levels of mercury vapor for several minutes as each filling is removed. Remember that you can't see, smell, or taste mercury vapor.

Many dentists are not aware of the release of mercury vapor during the removal procedure. Some realize the problem but are not set up to deal with it. There is a proper protocol that can be  followed. You can be protected from the added exposure to mercury vapor.

Whether you decide to have your silver fillings replaced or not, at least, don't have any new ones placed.

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