As a result of persistent and pointed pressure from dentists, health professionals and consumers alike, the FDA has now promised to make an announcement by the end of year 2011 pertaining to a decision about whether or not to warn the public about the dangers of mercury in dental amalgam, and possibly even restrict its use.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that many, if not most Americans still have amalgam fillings in their mouths and the question is; what to do about it? Perhaps the most important thing to consider is, are you mercury toxic? And how can you tell if you are?
Some estimates say that up to 85 percent of Americans today have at least one silver filling and each of those fillings contain approximately 50 percent mercury. Among mercury savvy dentists it is well known that the constant off-gassing of mercury vapor can suppress normal immune function by a whopping 88 percent – when compared to a people who have no mercury in their body. Most Americans have even more than one mercury amalgam filling compounding the dangers of toxicity exponentially. So, the chances are – unless you have been among the minority who are proactive in the dental chair, you still have toxic amalgam mercury fillings in your teeth.
The Big Deal about Amalgam Fillings
The amalgam filling is typically a mixture of silver, copper, tin and zinc with an equal amount of mercury (up to 50 percent mercury). Fillings naturally deteriorate over time, leaching the various metal components into the body in the process. Amalgam fillings react to substances such as acid in the mouth, causing the filling to deteriorate even more rapidly. The deteriorating vapor then enters the body and is subsequently inhaled into the lungs where it is absorbed into the blood stream. Likewise, as we eat, mercury is incorporated into food, is then swallowed and digested and absorbed into the bloodstream where it is distributed to more vulnerable tissues and organs.
Toxicity to mercury can create a range of symptoms from subtle to alarming and may include such things as lethargy, blurred vision, dizziness, muscle aches, numbness, escalating to numbness and tingling throughout the body and in extreme cases; paralysis, tremors, severe pain and a myriad of autoimmune disorders (for a more comprehensive list of symptoms, please see Mercury Toxicity Symptoms).
Only the most recent exposures will show up in a blood sample making it difficult to determine toxicity from blood tests. However, once introduced into a person’s circulatory system mercury quickly binds to tissues in organs where it builds up toxicity and breaks down the immune system.
There is a test available that can determine toxicity within 24 hours, but it has some drawbacks. A DMPS (Sodium 2,3-dimercaptopropane-l-sulfonate) challenge test involves taking an injection or ingesting an oral agent containing a chemical (DMPS) which binds to and then mobilizes mercury in the body. Then 24 hours later a urine sample is collected and tested and the amount of mercury that is found in that sample will help to determine if a patient is mercury toxic.
There is some controversy about this test because people who are highly sensitive may suffer a reaction when the mercury is mobilized. Also some believe that the reactivated mercury can redistribute itself in body tissue and cause additional damage.
Hair testing involves taking a hair sample and testing it for mercury content. If mercury remains in the bloodstream for any length of time, it will begin to collect in the hair. The trouble with this test is that it can be unreliable and time consuming. A sample takes so long to grow it therefore involves significant time to produce accurate results. Another challenge to this kind of test is that mercury is rapidly removed from the bloodstream through normal body processes by being excreted and/or deposited in body tissues and organs. Therefore, it is impossible to determine exactly how much mercury is in a person’s body based on a hair sample. Consequently, you may be mercury toxic but still show low levels of the substance occurring in the blood and hair.
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to diagnose mercury toxicity is by looking at the symptoms and diseases it produces. Some diagnosticians typically suspect mercury toxicity in a person when three or more symptoms recognized as mercury toxicity are present.
Some laboratory test indications may include:
- A white blood cell count above 7,500 or below 4,500
- Hematocrit above 50 percent or below 40 percent (this is the percentage by volume of packed red blood cells in a sample of blood after it has been spun in a centrifuge).
- A lymphocyte count above 2,800 or below 1,800 (lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that function in the development of the immune system)
- A blood protein level above 7.5 grams per 100 milliliters of serum (7.5 g percent ml)
- A blood triglyceride level above 150 mg percent ml
- A blood area nitrogen (BUN) level above 18 or below 12 percent
- A level of nickel in the hair above 1.5 parts per million (ppm)
- A hair aluminum level above 15 ppm
- A hair manganese level below 0.3 ppm
- Immune reactions to aluminum, nickel, mercury, copper, or gold
Symptoms that show the most improvement after removing amalgam fillings include:
- Neurological – depression, irritability, suicidal tendencies, inability to cope; as multiple sclerosis, seizures facial twitches, muscle spasms
- Cardiovascular – endocarditis, heart, valves or lungs, etc.
- Collagen Diseases – scleroderma, arthritis, lupus, bursitis, etc.
- Immunological disorders – Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), etc.
- Allergies – the full range of allergies
Amalgam fillings pose a potential health risk for everyone, especially for those who have recognized sensitivities or pronounced allergies. Anyone who has several amalgam fillings and displays immune system disorders might consider having their silver fillings replaced. Natural looking composites are healthier and by and large are much more aesthetically pleasing.
The important thing to keep in mind when having amalgam fillings removed is to be sure to choose an experienced holistic dentist who follows definite protocols for protecting the overall health of the patient (and the environment) from additional mercury exposure during the removal process. Holistic dentists can also assess a person’s bio-compatibility for alternative materials and can also make referrals to someone skilled in mercury detoxification if necessary.
For more information on the scientific research pertaining to amalgam mercury, see “The Scientific Case Against Amalgam,” available from the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology Web site www.iaomt.org.