Should I have My Mercury Fillings Replaced?

dr.k alderman on amalgam filling

Dr. Alderman, your Dentist in Lincoln, NE on Amalgam Fillings: Should Amalgam (Silver) Fillings be replaced?

As a dentist in Lincoln, NE who has been practicing dentistry for years, I will share my thoughts on Mercury fillings through this blog.

The Composition of Mercury Fillings explained by Your Dentist in Lincoln, NE

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. Thus, 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. Therefore, the higher the current, the faster the release. Dating back to 1976, ADA sponsored high Copper amalgam started taking over the market and is now a patent holder. Mercury is given off approximately 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 composition can be between 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.

Image from biological dentist in Lincoln, NE showing a tooth with mercury fillings Lincoln, NE

Is it possible for Mercury to leak from Amalgam (Silver) Fillings? Your Dentist in Lincoln, NE explains…

YES! It is undeniably true that amalgam fillings release Mercury vapor and byproducts. Scientists do agree that any Mercury absorbed in high enough amounts, will cause health issues. It is known that the release of Mercury vapors does occur 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 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. This however, will last on average, roughly 10 to 15 minutes. Likewise, 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.

image from Biological dentist in Lincoln, NE showing mercury vapor being released from a tooth after being rubbed by an eraser.

Mercury Fillings and Toxicity

Where does all the Mercury go? Find out from Your Dentist in Lincoln, NE

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. Mercury can also travel to the lymphatic drainage system and directly into the bloodstream. From the blood, Mercury can go to any cell within the body. 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. All of the compounds included in Mercury are masters at moving through 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. The ionic form of Mercury 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.

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 such as the nervous system 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 explained by Your Dentist in Lincoln, NE:

As your dentist in Lincoln, NE, I know that 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. This happens every time you stimulate the teeth. Examples may be drinking, eating, and brushing your 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.
image of old silver mercury fillings with holes taken by your biological dentist in Lincoln, NE

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 Benefits:

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

A before image from Nebraska Family Dentistry of Silver/ Mercury fillings before being replaced with tooth colored fillings
Mercury Fillings: Before White Filling Replacement
Example of tooth-colored, white fillings from your biological dentist in Lincoln, NE at Nebraska Family Dentistry
White Filling: After Mercury fillings Replacement

Composite restorations offer many advantages including:

  1. Cosmetic and aesthetic Blends in seamlessly and naturally.
  2. Smooth and bonded margins – Less plaque accumulation helping offset the chances for recurrent decay.
  3. Conservative – The removal of less tooth structure to make space for the new filling.
  4. Easily repaired – Any chips can easily be corrected with surface roughening and addition of composite material.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 vapors during the removal process. 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 during the placement or removal. 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:

  1. Keeping the filling at a cooler temperature: Removal of amalgam fillings are done under a constant spray of cold water to keep the temperature low and reduce the release of Mercury vapor.
  2. Cutting the filling into smaller more manageable chunks: The removal procedure involves cutting the filling into smaller pieces that can be easily removed.
  3. Using 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.
  4. Using an Isolite: We use a non-latex Isolite to prevent swallowing or breathing of toxic Mercury.
  5. 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 Explained By Your Dentist in Lincoln, NE:

  • 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? Your Dentist in Lincoln, NE Explains…

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 The Removal of Amalgam / Mercury fillings Explained by Your Dentist in Lincoln, NE:

  • Patients who have defective margins or recurrent decay around their dental amalgam fillings.
  • Any patient who has more than eight amalgam dental fillings.
  • Patients who have exhibited a sensitivity or an allergy to dental amalgam (lymphocyte proliferation test).
  • Those 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).
  • Any patient that has medical conditions that could be correlated with metal toxicity.

Still unsure about Mercury fillings? We’ve answered some more commonly asked questions to help you gauge whether or not you should visit with your dentist.

Is it necessary to replace fillings?

Dental restorations can last for many, many years when done properly. However, when it comes to the replacement of amalgam fillings, a few things must be taken into consideration. As previously explained, there are certain factors you should consider when it comes to replacing all amalgam fillings. Ultimately, the best way to gauge your decision is to do your homework and visit with your dentist. He or she can help guide you in making a decision that will benefit your oral and overall health.

Can Mercury fillings cause health problems?

The short answer is, yes. Mercury fillings can indeed cause health problems. While there is still some speculation around just how much Mercury exposure you need before certain problems occur, it is known that over time, the effects of Mercury vapors can cause harm. Mercury poisoning can cause a number of problems such as headaches, tremors, insomnia, and even respiratory failure. If you have concerns about your Mercury fillings, be sure to talk to your dentist.

Can Mercury leak from amalgam fillings?

Absolutely! Mercury can in fact leak from amalgam fillings in the form of vapor. Mercury fillings are a combination of metals, typically Mercury, Silver, Tin and Copper. All of these metals together can cause problems especially for those that have sensitivities or allergies to metals.

How much does it cost to replace amalgam fillings?

As with any medical or dental procedure, the cost does vary. Why? Not only can the cost vary by dental practice location, but it can also vary depending upon the size of the filling and perhaps whether or not you have dental insurance that might help cover any portion of your restorative treatment. All dental plans are different and coverage from person to person is varies. At Nebraska Family Dentistry, we’re upfront about all treatment costs, so there are no hidden surprises. If you are curious about the cost of amalgam filling replacement, give us a call today. We’d love to see what we can do for you! Generally, after a visit with one of our gentle dentists, we can provide you with a detailed breakdown of the cost.

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. Drinking soda and coffee with a straw is a better alternative. They also recommend incorporating garlic, cilantro, and Chlorella (a freshwater algae supplement) into your diet because. All of these things help 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

This video powerfully demonstrates the release of Mercury vapors for anyone who has amalgam fillings. This occurs every time you eat, chew, drink hot coffee or visit the dentist. The oral cavity is where the absorption of Mercury can occur and enter your bloodstream. These 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

Dr. Curatola, Founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry, Explains Dangers of Mercury Fillings Part 1
Dr. Curatola, Founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry, Explains Dangers of Mercury Fillings Part 2
Dr. Curatola, Founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry, Explains Dangers of Mercury Fillings Part 3

This blog was written by Dr. Kathryn Alderman, your dentist in Lincoln, NE. You can schedule an appointment online 24/7 with Dr. Kathryn Alderman at her East Dental Clinic of Nebraska Family Dentistry.

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