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DENTAL AMALGAM MERCURY POISONING

Although technically speaking, dental amalgams are not in the general ken of medicine but rather dentistry the problem is so widespread, I would be seriously remiss not to bring it to your attention. The problem of dental amalgams is the problem of mercury poisoning.

Mercury is a natural element, a toxic heavy metal, which is highly volatile, the vapor form having the ability to kill cells outright rather than merely do damage. Mercury is used in thermometers and also is known as "quicksilver." The breakage of a mercury thermometer is a potential, although usually unrecognized, medical emergency. Once exposed to air, mercury vaporizes rapidly. If inhaled it makes its way into the tissues of the body in minutes. A large dose can be lethal.

Like all heavy metals, mercury is found in two basic forms: inorganic and organic. Inorganic mercury is found in nature. Organic mercury has passed through a living system of some sort and has come out in the chelated form.

One particularly dangerous form of mercury is methylated mercury, which is produced by the chelating systems of certain bacteria. If inorganic mercury is found in your amalgams and these bacteria are found in your digestive tract, the inorganic mercury will eventually make its way to the bacteria where it will be converted to methylated mercury and from there make its way to your brain! Methylated mercury is hundreds of times more toxic than inorganic mercury and has a particular affinity for the brain where the symptom complex can include mild to severe intellectual impairment and/or emotional impairment. Only chelation therapy can fully and reliably remove this toxin from your body.

An ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure. It is much better to never have amalgams put in. If you already have them I heartily recommend you have them removed as soon as possible.

Amalgam, or what dentist sometimes call "silver fillings," is made from fifty percent mercury, thirty-five percent silver and fifteen percent tin, or tin mixed with copper, and a trace of zinc. This blend is easy for a dentist to work with, and it is much less expensive than gold. It also lasts a long time. Until the mid-1980s dentists assumed no mercury vapor was released from amalgam fillings. Since then, studies have proven a significant level of mercury vapor is released by simply chewing your food.

The federal agency responsible for regulation of allowable levels of substances at the workplace has established 50 ug./cc as the maximum allowable level of mercury vapor in the workplace. The average level of mercury vapor in the mouths of people with amalgams varies between 50 and 150 ug./cc. When removed from your mouth, dental amalgam is considered a toxic waste by the Environmental Protection Agency and must be handled in a certain way to protect dental office personnel from mercury poisoning. This is the same stuff, unchanged, which just came out of your tooth!

There are over 125 known symptoms of mercury toxicity. Most of them are vague and nonspecific. It is not known what role mercury toxicity may play in MS (multiple sclerosis) and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease), however Dr. Hal Huggins, a dentist in Colorado Springs, Colorado has developed a protocol for amalgam removal and replacement, and in treating large numbers of MS and ALS patients has noticed improvement of symptoms in 91%. People who were wheelchair bound often get up and walk, sometimes on the same day as amalgam removal!

This rather amazing result is thought to be due to removal of oral galvanic activity and its effect on the base of the brain. You probably have heard of people whose dental amalgams serve as radio antennas. Some of these people actually can hear the local radio stations in their mouths. This much induced electrical activity must have an effect on the brain, and judging from the results of amalgam removal in some cases, this electrical activity must somehow cause or potentiate paralysis.

Other people have nervous system symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, loss of appetite, and these people also demonstrate a high incidence of recovery from these troublesome symptoms after removal of dental amalgams. Many people with severe longstanding depression are cured by amalgam removal and chelation.

When a physician hears these vague symptoms from a patient he/she may not even consider mercury toxicity, because these symptoms can be caused by many other conditions and illnesses. Also, the patient forgets to mention the new amalgams, and the doctor usually doesn't ask. The dentist, of course, doesn't even hear about these symptoms, because the patient thinks of the dentist as the tooth doctor, and the symptoms of mercury poisoning seem to have nothing to do with teeth.

It is necessary to be aware of a diagnosis before it is possible to make that diagnosis, and the doctor usually does not even suspect the diagnosis of mercury toxicity. Many people, who actually are poisoned with mercury, are thought of as chronic complainers by their doctors who try to lend a sympathetic ear but actually ignore the complaints, because they do not know what else to do. Many a patient with a mouth full of amalgams has heard these words: "It's all in your head." Of course, that is right, if you remember the mouthful of amalgams is in the head and jaw.

A few of the symptoms which are possible from mercury poisoning are vomiting, gastritis, colitis, excessive salivation, abdominal pain, depression, anger, sleep disturbance, headaches, heart attack, dizziness, speech disorders, leg cramps, clumsiness, bad breath, fatigue and irritability just to name some of the 125 which have been documented so far.

The official American Dental Association position on amalgam is that not enough mercury is released to pose a hazard this despite hard evidence to the contrary. Dental schools have long taught the rationalization that the mercury is bound to the silver in the amalgam and does not escape to poison the patient. This is wrong.

In the U.S., dentistry, as a profession, does not question this party line. They respect authority as represented by their trade union, the ADA, too much to be objective about the matter.

Of course, there are exceptions. My dentist is a fellow named Allan Liles, and he is very aware of the truth of this matter. With his good information I have written some of this chapter. However, if you talk to the typical dentist in the U.S., that person will tell you not to worry about your amalgams.

In Europe, as usual in such things, there is much more awareness about this issue. Dentists in Europe recommend against using amalgams and suggest the use of composite (a plastic substance) or gold to fill teeth recently deprived of their rot.

Most dentists in the U.S. will drill out your amalgams and replace them, if you insist. However, I would not have anyone work on my amalgams who does not really understand the dangers involved. If a dentist does not take this issue seriously, he or she may not be diligent in getting the last bit of amalgam out of each filling before covering it over with gold or composite.

If you already have symptoms of mercury toxicity, these symptoms are coming from mercury already vaporized from your amalgams and now residing in the tissues of your body, particularly in your brain cells. The amalgams represent a source of future further intoxication and, for that reason, should be removed. However, to rid your body of the mercury which is causing the symptoms, only a course of chelation therapy will do the job.

Chelation therapy with EDTA has myriad benefits for your health, aside from removing mercury. However, if removing mercury is the only thing you want to get done, the best chelating agent for mercury, by far, is 2,3 dimercapto-1-propane-sulfonic acid or DMPS for short. Two to four treatments with DMPS, lasting a few minutes each, will usually do the job, and the result can be confirmed with pre- and post-treatment measurement of urine mercury concentration.

Remember, mercury enters the body through inhalation. It is not necessary to touch the stuff. People who should be concerned about mercury intoxication, aside from those with dental amalgams in their mouths, are dentists, dental assistants, dental office personnel anyone who has been around the use of amalgam; people living in the vicinity of mercury mines even if those mines have been closed for years; people living around volcanoes active or dormant. I recommend that people in all these categories be tested for mercury.

However, a serum or urine mercury level is an inadequate test, because mercury does not like to come out of the cells in which it is stored. A proper test is conducted with DMPS, which liberates a large amount of mercury. Urine mercury concentration, according to Godfrey and Campbell, shows a sixty-fold increase after DMPS administration in people with amalgam, a thirty-fold increase in dental personnel without amalgams, and only a ten-fold increase in people who have had their amalgams removed followed by a course of chelation therapy. These are average figures, of course, and the study quoted was carefully controlled and statistically significant.

Therefore, DMPS is not only the treatment of choice for mercury toxicity, but measurement of urine mercury concentration after administration of DMPS also is the only adequate laboratory test to correctly diagnose mercury intoxication. A high output of mercury in the urine after intravenous DMPS indicates mercury intoxication. A low level of mercury in the urine in the absence of DMPS administration means nothing except that mercury does not readily come out of the intracellular space.

U.S. dentists, with some notable exceptions, disparage the idea of amalgam-associated mercury toxicity. This is unfortunate for their patients, as well as for the dentists themselves. There is little room for doubt, the unusual incidence of depression and high rate of suicide in dentists is related to mercury toxicity. Europe, led by Sweden, where dental amalgam is being phased out, is coming around to an official recognition of this problem. Sooner or later, American dentistry must follow. Better late than never, folks!

When having amalgam removed, you will be exposed to a large dose of mercury vapor. This is unavoidable. You should arrange to have an intravenous vitamin C infusion that same day an hour or two before or after the dental work. This large dose of vitamin C will chelate the mercury and allow you to excrete it through your kidneys, thus preventing damage to the brain, immune system, etc., caused by the sudden increase in mercury level. Unfortunately, your dentist is not licensed to give this infusion but should be able to refer you to a medical doctor who can do this service for you.

If you need a referral to a dentist in your community who is informed about the amalgam issue, contact:

The Environmental Dental Association
10160 Aviary Dr.
San Diego, CA 92131
(800) 388-8124

Sources

Phelps R, Clarkson T Interrelationship of blood and hair mercury concentrations in a North American population exposed to methyl mercury. Arch Env Health 1980;35:161-165

Svare CW, Peterson LC, Reinhart JW et al. The effect of dental amalgams on mercury level in expired air. J Dent Res 1981;60:1666-1671

Gay DD, Cox RD, Reinhart JW Chewing releases mercury from fillings. Lancet 1979;1:985-986

Vimy MJ, Lorscheider FL Intraoral mercury from dental amalgams. J Dent Res 1985;64:1069-1071

Friberg L, Kullman I, Lind B, et al. Mercury in the central nervous system and its relationship with amalgam fillings. Lakartidningen 1986;83:519-122. (Swedish)

Godfrey M, Campbell N Confirmation of mercury retention and toxicity using 2,3 dimercapto-1-propane sulphonic acid sodium salt (DMPS). J of Adv in Med 1994;vol. 7 no. 1:19-30


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