Amalgam Fillings Are Controversial
The use of amalgam fillings (also called "silver fillings") in dentistry has become a controversial topic. Dental amalgam has been used for more than 150 years to fill cavities in the teeth of literally hundreds of millions of patients.
Its proponents emphasize that amalgam is a relatively inexpensive, durable and effective material that is also easy for dentists to use when filling cavities. However, dental amalgam is a composite metallic material consisting of mercury and an alloy of silver, tin and copper. By weight, about half of dental amalgam is mercury.
Mercury Has A Story To Tell
The toxic properties of elemental mercury have been well established by scientific research.
Many dental patients as well as some dentists and physicians believe the mercury in dental amalgam is associated with an assortment of physical and mental health issues, including immune system suppression, Alzheimer's disease, resistance to antibiotics, impaired renal function and/or kidney damage, congestive heart failure, Parkinson's disease, ALS, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, hearing loss, anxiety, depression and general fatigue.
Many scientists agree that fillings of dental amalgam leach mercury vapors into the mouth, but the effects of this leaching remain open to question. One thing is clear, however: the concentration of mercury in a patient's blood, brain and urine correlates with the number of amalgam dental fillings in that patient's mouth.
In 2002, two accomplished researchers, Dr. Gary Null, Ph.D. and Dr. Martin Feldman, M.D., published a significant report regarding the health hazards associated with fillings of dental amalgam. Their report points to uncontestable evidence showing that mercury leaches from these fillings continually, at a rate that's 10 to 50 times the limit of safety established by the U.S. Public Health Service.
Research has also revealed that although mercury destroys the body's white blood cells, the proper removal of amalgam dental fillings permits the patient's body to restore its white blood cell count to a healthier level.
Evidence also indicates the body's T-cells (specialized lymphocytes that play an essential role in the immune system) decrease significantly after the emplacement of amalgam dental fillings, but rise once those fillings are removed.
Despite this evidence, the American Dental Association continues to contend that using amalgam dental fillings is a safe dentistry practice. One wonders, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed dental amalgam to be a hazardous material.
So, the controversy surrounding amalgam dental fillings rages on. Holistic dentists, who generally eschew the use of dental amalgam in favor of materials which contain no mercury (often called "white fillings"), typically believe removing amalgam dental fillings properly allows a patient's white blood cell counts to build back to normal levels.
Several scientific studies have shown chewing to be an activity, which can dramatically increase the quantities of mercury vapor leaching from amalgam dental fillings into the mouth.
These studies indicate that from the mouth, the mercury vapors pass into the brain and the pituitary quite easily.
According to autopsy studies performed at Sweden's world-renowned Karolinska Institute, amalgam dental fillings are associated with significantly elevated mercury levels in the body.
These autopsies showed that people with amalgam dental fillings have three times more mercury in their brains than people who have no amalgam in their mouths.
The difference is even more drastic for mercury levels in the kidneys, where people with fillings of dental amalgam have nine times more mercury than people without this type of filling.
As mentioned above, the toxicity of elemental mercury is well-established. However, bacteria commonly found in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract are able to convert elemental mercury into an even more toxic substance called methylmercury.
This substance, which is 100 times more toxic than elemental mercury, can cross the blood-brain barrier as well as pass through the placenta into a fetus. It can remain in the brain for ten years or longer.
Outlawed In Some Countries
Although they remain widely used in the United States and many other countries, amalgam fillings have become quite controversial because of these potential health risks.
Although people's sensitivity to mercury varies, some countries are beginning to realize the potential dangers inherent in using amalgam fillings.
Recognizing that amalgam's benefits may be outweighed by its dangers, these countries are beginning to enact legislation, which either restricts or prohibits amalgam's use.
For example, new amalgam fillings are now prohibited by law in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Germany, Canada and the UK are advising dentists to avoid using amalgam fillings in pregnant women, even going so far as to recommend their removal.
Even the State of California is getting into the act, requiring its dentists to post a sign in their offices stating "WARNING - Amalgam fillings contain a chemical element known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm."
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