I bet you didn’t know if you had a lot of dental work in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, you likely have a mouth full of mercury fillings.
For many years one of the predominant materials used in dental fillings was mercury. As a result of these “silver amalgam fillings”, in 1991, the World Health Organization determined the main source of mercury exposure for humans was dental fillings. Naturally, this caused a lot of concern as many people have had fillings that included mercury.
The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology was very concerned about the effects of these findings on both manufacturers and dental trade associations. Safety standards would also need to be taken as investigations would need to be carried out to examine the potential harm.
But how is it that these silver amalgam fillings could lead to mercury exposure even years after the filling was completed? What the evidence suggests is that from the filling there will be mercury vapor coming from that filling?
These vapors will mainly be emitted when your filling comes in contact with something else. For mercury vapor to be released you will need the temperature of the filling to be raised to 110 degrees. Unfortunately, that is a relatively easy thing to do as many daily activities will involve that area of your body increasing temperature, such activities include chewing on things or even just drinking liquids.
Rubbing or brushing your teeth, having it come in contact with hot water and a number of other different causes could lead to your filling having this mercury vapor come off. Naturally, this means that within the day you will most likely have vapor that will expose you to mercury. What is even more important though is that once the vapor starts being released it will not stop for about an hour and a half. This means that your mercury exposure is not only relatively constant but could also be considered relatively lengthy.
As a result of all of the concerns regarding mercury in fillings, many different studies and experiments were conducted on animals. What these showed was that in sheep exposed to mercury from fillings, their body would quickly experience the spread of mercury in every organ. More importantly, the result of this exposure was often a kidney malfunction, which led to the body of the sheep slowly shutting down. Mercury could also be found in their jaw, kidneys, liver, intestines, and heart. As a result of the leaking mercury fillings, there were also dystrophic bacteria found in the intestines. These effects did not take a long time to be felt. In fact, most of them were present within the first couple of weeks.
In pregnant sheep, the result of the mercury exposure was also transferred to their fetus since the mercury seemed to directly go to the placenta of the sheep. The mother’s milk was also affected by the exposure as it was found to have a higher concentration of mercury that was then passed on to their lambs.
As a result, it quickly became evident that there was no chance for a safe mercury filling. Instead to ensure safety one needed to choose fillings that contained no mercury. And yet, for many years mercury feels continued to be used. Not only that but they were often combined with lead, a combination that has proved to be even more damaging. These fillings would often require dentists to drill away almost a third of the tooth in order to fix the cavity, even if the cavity was small. These types of fillings were most commonly used on children which could suffer the damaging effects of mercury exposure for years. These fillings were also not as effective as they often led to more dental problems, including root canals or diseased teeth.
The first filling for any tooth is crucial and those who had the unlucky chance of having a mercury filling in one of their teeth quickly found that they needed more and more repairs and dental treatments as a result of that filling.
This is why new composites and materials are considered now for dental repairs as they can help reduce the long-term costs in both the health of a patient and the dental treatments that they will require in the long run. Even if one does not consider the high dental costs that are a result of the need for constant treatments, the negative effect of mercury exposure which can lead to neurological impairments, brain damage and have even been linked to infertility are enough for most people to decide that these sorts of fillings are not worth it.
The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology recommends that mercury fillings should be prohibited completely however many countries continue to use them. This is something that you should always discuss with your dentist prior to proceeding with any dental treatment so as to ensure that your fillings will not contain mercury.
Many dentists are even recommending taking out old ‘silver amalgam’ fillings. People who have them removed report they get sick less often, have fewer allergies, and fewer sinus problems.
But the big question remains: how many horrible health problems, that have mystified us for decades, can be attributed to the fact that we have this lethal metal sitting in our mouths?