Once upon a time, folks believed that the mercury that makes up the bulk of “silver” fillings stayed locked inside the alloy. We know now, of course, this isn’t the case. Some mercury is released with every bite and swallow, and every time the fillings are brushed or polished.
Mercury vapor is easily taken into the lungs and from there into the blood and to organs like the brain and kidneys.
Perhaps one of the most persuasive demonstrations of this mercury release is IAOMT’s classic “Smoking Teeth = Poison Gas” – a video that has been instrumental in informing the public of the risk these fillings can pose and leading them to investigate the role their own amalgams may be playing in their health.
While amalgam’s defenders today acknowledge that mercury vapor is released, they typically add that it’s too small an amount to worry about. But small amount after small amount eventually becomes significant.
Some studies have tried to gauge this release indirectly by measuring levels of the heavy metal in patients’ blood or urine. Unfortunately, such studies can’t account for mercury retained in the body. Some researchers recently sought a better measure, evaluating the fillings themselves. Their results were published earlier this year in a Brazilian journal of pediatric dentistry (Pesquisa Brasileira em Odontopediatria e Clínica Integrada).
The research team tested two sets of amalgam fillings. One consisted of 10 new amalgams that were removed shortly after they were placed. Those were compared to 10 amalgams that were removed from patients’ mouths after 5 years of bearing the pressures of biting, chewing, clenching, and such.
The difference between the two was striking:
“In the current study,” write the authors,
the results show that the change in the amount of Hg available in the amalgam restoration is significant over the 5 years period, since the difference between the new and old amalgam filling in the amount of mercury is significant. So, amalgam filling[s] could have an effect on patient health due to significant loss of Hg from amalgam restoration.
This is one of the many reasons why we keep our office both mercury-free and mercury-safe. When patients choose to have their amalgams replaced with biocompatible restorations, we follow strict protocols to limit exposure to mercury vapor and prevent mercury contaminated waste from entering the environment.
After all, if mere chewing and brushing can release mercury, just look at what a dental drill can do:
Once upon a time, our mercury-free, mercury-safe practices made us outliers in the dental landscape. This Mercury-Free Dentistry Week, we celebrate the reality of its becoming more the norm every day. While we still have a long way to go before this toxic metal is completely phased out worldwide, the progress we’ve made is definitely something worth celebrating.