Mercury is one of the most dangerous and toxic substances known to man, so why for the past 150 years have dentists been putting amalgam fillings, containing at least 50 percent mercury, into our mouths?
Investigative TV news reporter Stacey Case is featured in a new documentary released this week called Evidence of Harm.
The documentary tells the tale of three ordinary Americans who became reluctant health advocates after routine dental procedures exposed them to the harmful effects of hazardous mercury vapors.
For most kids, visiting the dentist to have a filling put in is part and parcel of growing up. When a dentist diagnoses decay in a tooth or teeth and advises the parents that fillings are necessary, we readily give our consent, because like doctors, dentists are authoritative and professional figures whom we place our absolute confidence in.
Additionally, although they are banned in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, we do not perceive amalgam filings as a serious threat to our children's health because many parents have teeth full of them. Yet with growing numbers of people blaming amalgam fillings from everything from high blood pressure to arthritis and Alzheimer's disease, and at least 500 dental practices in the UK refusing to offer them, is all that metal and mercury being put in our mouths equivalent to a ticking time bomb?
Evidence of Harm paints a chilling portrait of a dental industry which has turned its back on the cold hard facts of science in favor of profits and politics.
After his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, filmmaker Randall Moore began investigating mercury fillings and became increasingly concerned at his investigations.
"I became frustrated with our government's refusal to remove this toxic product from the marketplace. So I created this documentary to alert others of the widespread dangers of how this dental material adversely impacts public health and the environment worldwide."There are 120 million Americans currently implanted with toxic mercury dental fillings. Stacey Case was one such American who never thought there could be a ticking time bomb in her mouth until she had her old mercury fillings unsafely removed and replaced with four new mercury fillings.
Shortly after the operation, Stacey was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Upon investigating her condition, Stacey discovered research which established a connection between mercury and multiple sclerosis.
She had the mercury fillings removed by a mercury-safe dentist from the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology and then underwent chelation treatments to remove the mercury from her body.
The procedures resulted in Stacey experiencing no further symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In 2010 Stacey urged the FDA to ban the use of mercury fillings in an eloquent speech.
"Your agency, the FDA had done nothing to warn me, an educated professional that this was a health hazard, this is a great injustice.From the very first, the safety of mercury fillings has divided professional opinion. Introduced in the 1830s, the silver fillings were created by bonding mercury, silver, tin, copper, and zinc together to form a relatively cheap, durable and stable substance that could be used to fill cavities within the teeth.
"I now know that I and millions of other Americans are genetically predisposed to autoimmune disease and these mercury fillings are the trigger in many cases.
"Your hand picked scientists in 2006 and 2010 have made you keenly aware of the health risks and disease causation. Please do not ignore them or injured consumers like me any longer."
In 1840 The American Society of Dental Surgeons denounced the use of amalgam due to concerns about mercury poisoning. In 1859 dentists who supported the use of amalgam formed a breakaway group called the American Dental Association and used it from then until the present day as the filling material of choice. In 1926, German chemist, Dr. Alfred Stock proved that amalgam fillings were a source of mercury vapor in the mouth, and in 1984 autopsy studies were published demonstrating that the amount of mercury found in the brain and kidney tissue was directly related to the amount of amalgam fillings in the mouth.
In 1991 the World Health Organization reported that exposure to mercury from amalgams was higher than that found in fish, seafood, water and the air.Amalgam fillings are potentially very dangerous because it has been proven that simply chewing food or brushing your teeth puts pressure on your fillings and releases harmful mercury vapour, which can be absorbed by your lungs and bloodstream continually through the course of your lifetime.
Despite campaigners claiming that mercury poisoning caused by amalgams can be implicated in a wide range of conditions including ME, multiple sclerosis, kidney damage, autism, memory loss loss of hair, bladder control and bowel problems, the British Department of Health issued a statement in 2008 that it continued to believe mercury fillings poised no danger.
Amalgam supporters justify its continued use by pointing to the fact that it has been in use for over a hundred years, and that any mercury released from amalgam is inconsequential because it is such a miniscule amount over an extended period.
Although it's been proven that mercury is a neurotoxin that can cause cognitive and developmental problems in children and lead to brain and kidney damage in adults, to date there's no hard and fast evidence comprehensively linking amalgam fillings to the serious health risks associated with mercury poisoning.
Naturally, if you believe there's even the slightest chance that amalgam fillings can harm you or your child's health, you'll want to avoid them at all costs, but what's the alternative? Many dentists today will prefer to use white composite fillings as opposed to amalgam because they contain no mercury, bond to teeth, are less susceptible to breaking, and less sensitive to the extremes of hot and cold.
Composite fillings also require less of the tooth to be drilled away prior to installation. And, because they blend in with the natural color of teeth composites, they are also more aesthetically pleasing then amalgam.
Although the jury may still be out on the final verdict regarding the safety of amalgam fillings, they have been in use for a lot longer than composite fillings, which have been gradually phased in since the 1990s, and whose long term effects, if any, we still do not know.
In the final analysis, prevention is always far better than cure, so a parent's best option is to ensure their children are given the best chance of avoiding both types of fillings altogether. The intake of fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolate, which all contain the excess sugar than can lead to tooth decay, should be carefully moderated to ensure your children's teeth remain healthy.
Additionally, teach them the importance of regular brushing, and always bear in mind the universal truth of that age old rhyme - an apple a day keeps the dentist away!
[Lead Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]