By Michael G. Rehme, DDS, NMD, CCN
I’ve always tried to explain to my patients that the best dentistry is no dentistry at all. Even with all the knowledge, education, and research that has been provided to our dental profession, our best efforts will never be able to restore teeth to be identical to the natural structure and beauty that Mother Nature provides for us all.
This post aims to enlighten patients so they can understand more clearly what dentistry has to offer in regards to restorative materials.
The materials most commonly used in dentistry consist of mercury, gold, silver, nickel, chromium, cadmium, aluminum, palladium, platinum, titanium, copper, tin, plastics, and porcelains. To be quite honest, in the early part of my dental career, I never gave much thought to the materials I was using. Then suddenly, my curiosity got the best of me. After 13 years of practicing dentistry, I became acutely aware of the materials that were being placed in my patient’s mouths and decided I needed to compile more information and research in order to form and educated opinion for myself.
Some of the materials that are commonly used in the mouth are considered heavy metals: mercury, nickel, cadmium, aluminum, palladium, silver, and copper. What’s the concern about these metals?
A heavy metal is any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic or poisonous at low concentrations. Heavy metals are a natural component of the Earth’s crust. They cannot be degraded or destroyed to a small extent. They can enter our bodies via inhalation, skin, eye contact, and ingestion. As trace elements, some heavy metals (e.g., copper, selenium, and zinc) are essential to maintain the metabolism of the human body; however, at higher concentrations they can lead to poisoning.
Heavy metals are dangerous because they tend to bio-accumulate. Bioaccumulation means an increase in the concentration of a chemical in a biological organism over time, compared to the chemical’s concentrations within the environment. Compounds accumulate in living things any time they are taken up and stored faster than they are broken down (metabolized) or excreted.
Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include mental confusion, pain in muscle joints, headaches, short term memory loss, gastrointestinal upsets, food intolerance/allergies, vision problems, chronic fatigue, and more. The symptoms are so vague that it is difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone. Because of this, discovering their cause is the real mystery that may actually plague our present health and wellness.
The worst part about heavy metals is that once they build up in your body, they can cause irreversible damage. Further damage may be prevented through detox, but this process should be carefully planned and supervised by dentists who are specifically trained to follow well-designed protocols so you can detox safely.
Ultimately, though, PREVENTION is the best defense for your body, and this is the biological concept that our office wants to offer all of our patients. So what materials are more suitable than the heavy metals still so commonly used in dentistry?
Once you set aside the heavy metals, you’re left with gold and its alloys (non-heavy metals), plastics, and porcelains. Now what you have to ask yourself is, how to use this information? Well, you need to have a perspective. No material is perfect! Alternative materials like gold alloys, porcelains, and bonded composite resins (plastics) all have their possible risks, too. But you need to think of toxicity like a bell curve, where mercury, nickel, aluminum, chrome, and cadmium are up near the peak, indicating high toxicity, while every other dental material may be on the way down the tails of the bell curve. To keep perspective, understand that the water you drink and the air you breathe are also somewhere on that curve.
Although no dental product is perfect, our office has carefully searched for specific materials that I believe can provide a safer alternative to the conventional products that dental patients have been exposed to for many, many years. It is a sign of my commitment to each and every one of our patients that we do all we can to keep heavy metals out of our practice.
Even though the scientific community can debate the pros and cons of this matter for decades to come, my immediate and personal opinion is simply this: Why take a chance if you don’t have to? Prevention and protection are your best bets to promote a healthy life for yourself, and this is what our office wants to project to all our patients. So whatever I can possibly do to provide a safe environment, not only for my patients but for my staff members, I will continue to do so for as long as I am able. Let’s keep it simple and get back to basics.
Updated from the original