Dr. Alderman on Amalgam Fillings: Should Amalgam (Silver) Fillings be replaced?
As a dentist who has been practicing dentistry for years, I will share my thoughts on Mercury fillings through this blog.
The Composition of Mercury Fillings
Mercury makes up about 50% of the most common fillings in the world called Silver-Mercury amalgam fillings. This amalgam material also contains other metals such as Zinc, Copper, Tin, and Silver. Because of the high Mercury content, these fillings are Silver in color when they are first placed; hence the name, “Silver” filling. After being in the mouth for a bit of time, it is at that point that the Mercury starts reacting chemically resulting in black corrosion. The darker the filling, all the more tarnish that has taken place. These fillings do have an electrical current that can be measured. The current and release of Mercury are directly proportional. The higher the current means, the faster that Mercury is being released. Dating back to 1976, ADA sponsored high Copper amalgam started taking over the market and is now a patent holder. Mercury is released around 50 times faster than the “conventional” amalgam before that time.
As of today, by weight, dental amalgam fillings contain between 48 to 51% Mercury. Copper comes in a close second and is now leading the markets. Amalgam can be composed of up to 24 to 33% Copper. The higher the amount of Copper, the faster both Copper and Mercury are released from the fillings. A Gold crown anywhere in the mouth can also increase the rate of release of Mercury.
Is it possible for Mercury to leak from Amalgam (Silver) Fillings?
YES! It is undeniably true that Mercury vapor and byproducts are released from amalgam fillings. Scientists do agree that any Mercury absorbed in high enough amounts, will cause health issues. It is known that Mercury vapors are released from amalgam fillings, but the agreement is that the amount is far enough below what is accepted by the FDA-a daily intake of .4 micro-grams per kilogram of body weight. It is still somewhat unclear, however, as to how much Mercury would have to be absorbed to cause any problems.
Dr. Chew has found in some university studies that within the first two years following placement, amalgam fillings release roughly 34 micro-grams per filling per square centimeter of exposed filling, each day. Daily tests were conducted on fillings placed in pure water. Many contributing factors can cause Mercury to be released faster. As previously mentioned, any other metals such as Nickel crowns, Gold crowns, and or removable bridges will increase the rate of release. Chewing food also increases the rate of release dramatically. Hot liquids, such as coffee can also increase emission by thousands of percent, but that only lasts roughly 10 to 15 minutes. As published by the ADA, abrasion that comes from chewing gum also increases the release by 1500%. Bruxism, commonly known as teeth grinding either during waking or sleeping hours, also increases the release of Mercury vapor. It is the electrical charge on a filling that gives us an idea as to how fast Copper, Mercury, and other metals are released. As previously stated, the higher the current measured, the quicker the release of Mercury is taking place. The total amount of Mercury released can be challenging to measure. There is, however, enough information to say that the current measurements are enough to contribute significantly to many disease processes. For example, the mouth is a perfect habitat. Inside the mouth it’s warm and encounters acidic foods, chewing gum, bruxism, eating food, and multiple bacterial strains.
Mercury Fillings and Toxicity
Where does all the Mercury go?
The short answer is, into your body. The areas inside your cheeks and under your tongue provide the fastest route of absorption. Of course, these areas are near any fillings, so the rate at which these materials can be absorbed is great. Through these tissues, Mercury can destroy adjacent tissues, or travel to the lymphatic drainage system and directly into the bloodstream. From the blood, Mercury can go to any cell within the body, where it can either disable or destroy the tissue. Mercury can also easily travel directly from the fillings into the lungs, and even the bloodstream-every cell can be a target. Mercury and all of its compounds are masters at moving through the cell membranes that are “lipid soluble.” Cell membranes are made up of roughly 40% fat and 60% protein. Nerve cells, however, are an exception. Nerve cells contain nearly 75% fat. These membranes that are rich in fat ultimately determine what can and can not enter the cell. Methyl Mercury is oxidized and is made into the “ionic” form of Mercury, which is a very destructive and harmful form of Mercury. Methyl Mercury happens to be the most dangerous because of its ability to enter all cells and travel great distances. Ultimately, the ionic form disrupts metabolic pathways and internal structures that keep a cell alive. All of this destruction and travel defines Mercury contamination or toxicity. It may favor nerve tissue as a destruction target, but the kidneys are high up on its list of tissues to destroy. Unfortunately, Mercury toxicity can cause significant problems in any tissue that gets in its way. For this very reason, it can be tough to devise a change in the normal state and chemistry of the body.
What health problems are related to the exposure of toxins such as those in Mercury fillings?
Diseases and Symptoms Related to Chronic, Long-Term Mercury Poisoning:
Mercury is not a radioactive material but rather a poisonous metal that can affect anyone’s health in a very aggressive manner. There is also good evidence that Mercury can in some ways, contribute to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Mercury intoxication can greatly affect many areas of the body. The nervous system can be significantly impacted in addition to causing the following:
- Psychological complications: Insomnia, irritability, loss of memory, and ataxia.
- Gastrointestinal complications: Colitis and diarrhea.
- Cardiovascular complications: Tachycardia, high/low blood pressure, irregular pulse, and pains in chest.
- Neurological complications : Regular headaches, dizziness, movement disorders.
- Respiratory complications: Bronchitis, shallow breathing, and asthma.
- Weak immune system: More susceptible to becoming ill as the body’s line of natural defense has been compromised.
Clinical facts about Mercury fillings and disadvantages to using it as a material for a dental filling:
Mercury should be avoided if at all possible. Mercury “Silver” fillings are a combination of Mercury, Silver, Copper, Tin, and other trace metals. Together all of these metals are combined to form an alloy. Our bodies have NO need or use for Mercury. The less Mercury we have in our system, the better.
There is extraordinary evidence showing the release of Mercury in the form of vapor every time you drink, eat, brush your teeth or stimulate the teeth. Mercury vapors can easily pass through cell membranes, across the blood-brain barrier, and ultimately into your CNS (central nervous system). Once in the central nervous system, this is where psychological, immunological, and neurological problems can occur. Children, including fetuses, whose brains are still developing, are most at risk, but anyone can be affected.
- To place an amalgam filling requires that more of the tooth structure is removed. This is not the case with tooth-colored restorations that are currently being offered. Because amalgams don’t bond to teeth, dentists have to place an undercut in a tooth to help keep it in place-this significantly undermines and weaken the tooth and can eventually lead to cracked teeth later on.
- Since amalgam fillings don’t bond directly to the tooth structure, over time space is created between the filling and tooth structure allowing bacteria to get enter. Once bacteria have entered, a cavity can develop underneath the filling.
- Amalgam fillings also contract and expand over time, working as a wedge inside the tooth and weakening the tooth over time. Additionally, this can lead to cracked teeth. Teeth with large amalgam fillings are prone to Cracked Tooth Syndrome and most commonly are seen on your back teeth.
What is a safer alternative at our office?
While in our care, your safety and comfort are always our number one priority. As a result, the use of Mercury in fillings is not done in our office. Our offices use only porcelain, ceramic, or composite restorations that are stronger and better looking. Also, these restorations are environmentally friendly while being placed due to decay, fracture or ill-fitting restorations.
Composite restorations such as this one (middle tooth) are superior to Silver fillings. This type of restoration reinforces the tooth with a strong bond and has undetectable, smooth margins to help prevent leakage and recurrent decay.
Before and After
Pictures of replacing old Mercury Fillings
Composite restorations offer many advantages including:
- Cosmetic and aesthetic – Blends in seamlessly and naturally.
- Smooth and bonded margins – Less plaque accumulation helping offset the chances for recurrent decay.
- Conservative – Less tooth structure is removed to make space for the new filling.
- Easily repaired – Any chips can easily be corrected with surface roughening and addition of composite material.
- Reinforces remaining tooth structure – Because the composite is bonded to the tooth itself, it significantly strengthens the remaining structure and helps prevent wedging forces from causing cracks and fractures with repeated chewing.
- Seals the dentin portion of the tooth from future decay
How is the exposure of amalgam minimized at our office for the benefit of the environment?
Our office has taken steps to help reduce your exposure to Mercury vapor during the removal process of old amalgam fillings. We can remove 99.5% of the total Mercury from the wastewater at our dental office, thus protecting the environment and the local community.
How to minimize exposure of amalgam at our office for your safety?
The most significant amount of exposure to Mercury from amalgam fillings is when they are placed and removed. Appropriate isolation and suction are also essential to help limit exposure to patients. Dr. Oz even suggests that if you have eight or more amalgam fillings, you should have them replaced. In response to his suggestion, I would say that removing eight fillings at once would create an abundance of exposure to Mercury. Myself, I would tend to prefer addressing replacing a few amalgam fillings every few months, instead of removing them all at one time.
Steps for removing amalgam. The procedure for safe removal of Mercury fillings includes the following actions:
- Keep the filling at a cooler temperature: Removal of amalgam fillings is done under a constant spray of cold water to keep the temperature low and reduce the release of Mercury vapor.
- Cutting the filling into smaller more manageable chunks: The removal procedure involves cutting the filling into smaller pieces that can be easily removed.
- Use of a high-volume evacuation (HVE): The use of a high-volume evacuation system helps scavenge and collect Mercury vapors that are released. A suction tube does remain in the mouth during the procedure to ensure the removal of saliva and Mercury.
- Using an Isolite: We use a non-latex Isolite to prevent swallowing or breathing of toxic Mercury.
- Using an air filtration system: Our air filtration system allows all vapors to leave the office every 30-60 seconds.
Post-Procedure Treatment After Replacing Amalgam / Mercury Fillings
- Once the amalgam filling is removed, we recommend proper nutrition. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Eating better will aid your immune system during the detoxification process.
- Taking charcoal, Emergen-C, and eating cilantro have all been found to be helpful detoxification materials.
Should I have my Silver amalgam / Mercury fillings replaced?
Having a good understanding of amalgam fillings along with seeing mounds of supporting research, we do recommend changing Silver fillings if you have any of those following conditions:
Considerations for removal of Amalgam / Mercury fillings:
- Patients who have defective margins or recurrent decay around their dental amalgam fillings.
- Patients who have more than eight amalgam dental fillings.
- Patients who have exhibited a sensitivity or an allergy to dental amalgam (lymphocyte proliferation test).
- Patients who grind their teeth (bruxism).
- Patients who consume high quantities of carbonated beverages and acidic foods-this has been known to cause prolonged levels of higher exposure to Mercury vapor from dental amalgam restorations.
- Patients that have medical conditions that could be correlated with metal toxicity.
Dr. Oz on Mercury fillings…
Dr. Oz’s guests have discussed the reasons why you might be at higher risk and how to prevent toxicity. The belief is that grinding of the teeth combined with high acid levels (from coffee, soda, vinegar, oranges) elicit more Mercury vapor. They suggest drinking soda and coffee with a straw. They also recommend incorporating garlic, cilantro, and Chlorella (a freshwater algae supplement) in your diet because they all help to bind and draw out Mercury from the body. They too suggest removing amalgams if you have eight or more, if you grind your teeth, or if there is a sign of decay or corrosion.
Mercury fillings video by Dr. Oz: Smoking Teeth – Toxic Gas
The video powerfully demonstrates that for anyone who has amalgam fillings, every time you eat, chew, drink hot coffee or visit the dentist Mercury vapors are released into your oral cavity. The oral cavity is where Mercury can be absorbed and enter your bloodstream. The poisonous vapors are odorless, tasteless, and colorless, so you won’t be able to tell that they’re there. A single dental amalgam filling could release as much as 15 micrograms of Mercury each day. The average individual has roughly eight amalgam fillings and could potentially absorb up to 120 micrograms of Mercury per day. In contrast, eating Mercury-tainted seafood would expose you to about 2.3 micrograms per day — and that alone was enough for experts to make a global warning dating back to 2006.
Additional Videos by Dr. OZ on Mercury fillings
This blog was written by Dr. Kathryn Alderman, Your biological dentist in Lincoln, NE. You can schedule an appointment online 24/7 with Dr.Kathryn Alderman at her East Dental Clinic Location of Nebraska Family Dentistry, https://preservefamilydentistry.com/appointment-booking/