Amalgam is the generic term applied to the silver-mercury filling commonly used in dentistry to restore teeth. Amalgam is also known as the “silver filling” (due to its shiny appearance) or the silver–mercury filling.
Silver-mercury amalgam has been used as a filling material for 160 years and has enjoyed the reputation of being an inexpensive, long lasting filling. Although the average life span of a silver-mercury amalgam filling is only around five years, according to Dr. Leon Silverstone at the University of Colorado School of Dentistry, some amalgam fillings have been known to last for up to 20 years.
Three times now, mercury from fillings has been accused of initiating diseases. The first time was in the 1830s, again in the 1920s and the third time a movement started in 1973 in which more substantial information has been available to determine the toxicity of mercury. Up until recently, it was felt that the mercury stayed within the filling. Now it is known that mercury leaches out every minute of the day.
Currently dental amalgam fillings contain around 48 to 51 percent mercury by weight. Copper comes in second with the high copper amalgam now leading the markets. Copper can be from 24 to 33 percent of the amalgam. The higher the copper level, the faster the mercury and copper – both – are emitted from the fillings. If a gold crown is anywhere in the mouth, mercury comes off faster.
There are many things that make mercury come out faster. As just mentioned, any other metals such as gold crowns, nickel crowns and removable bridges will increase the speed of release of mercury. Chewing foods increases the emissions, dramatically. Hot liquids, like coffee, increase the release by thousands of percent, but only for 10 or 15 minutes. Abrasion from chewing gum increases the release of mercury by 1500 percent as published. Abrasion during the grinding of teeth during waking or sleeping hours, called “bruxism,” also releases mercury vapor.
Compression of the filling from chewing releases mercury into the mouth. The electrical charge on a filling gives a hint as to how fast mercury, copper and other metals are being released. The higher the current measured, the faster the mercury release. The total amount of mercury released would be difficult to measure, but suffice it to say that the current measurements are adequate to contribute significantly to disease processes and the actual total mercury release in a living human being with saliva (which has a much higher electrical potential with dissimilar metals than water), in a warm , with acidic foods, bruxism, chewing gum, eating foods and several hundred bacterial strains is greater than any of today’s estimates.
Three times now, amalgam has been accused of initiating diseases. The first time was in the 1830’s, again in the 1920’s, and the third time a movement started in 1973 in which more substantial information has been available to determine the toxicity of the substance. Up until recently, it was felt that the mercury stayed within the filling. Now it is known that mercury leaches out every minute of the day. The average amalgam filling releases about 34 (plus-minus 2) micrograms of mercury daily.
Where does all of this mercury go? Into your body. Absorption of mercury from the area under your tongue and the insides of your cheeks are the fastest absorption. These areas, of course, are in close proximity to the mercury fillings, so efficiency of absorption is great. From these tissues, the mercury can travel to the lymphatic drainage system and directly into the blood stream. From the blood stream, mercury can travel to any cell in the body, where it can either disable or destroy the tissues. Mercury can also travel directly from the fillings into the lungs, into the blood stream and, as before described, every cell in the body becomes a valid target.
Methyl mercury is the most dangerous form due to its ability to travel great distances and enter all cells. After the trip, methyl mercury is converted into ionic form. The ionic form is what actually disrupts internal structures and metabolic pathways that keep a cell alive and producing proteins, enzymes, hormones, whatever, that are the purpose of the existence of the cell.
All of this travel and destruction is what defines mercury toxicity. It may favor nerve tissue for a destruction target, but the kidney is high up on its list of tissues to destroy. After these two areas, it can wreak havoc in any tissue that might get in its way.
Mercury atoms can attach to any cell in the body rendering it abnormal, and subject to destruction by the immune system. This condition is collectively referred to as “auto immune disease”.
Facts about Mercury – Dental silver Filling Toxicity
An often overlooked, but extremely important source of toxic material is the mercury from silver [mercury] amalgam fillings. Some people who are aware of the situation are confused by the mixture of information available. Unfortunately, statements from dental trade organizations and on a few poorly-researched news reports have muddled the situation.
Here are a few facts about mercury amalgam fillings:
- Causes Damage to Brain in Children
In February, 1998, a group of the world’s top mercury researchers announced that mercury from amalgam fillings can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and immune system of children.
- Amalgam Fillings Linked to Neurological Problems, Gastrointestinal Problems
The first large-scale epidemiological study of mercury and adverse reactions was recently completed and showed that of the symptoms looked at, there was a link seen to gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, concentration problems, memory disturbances, lack of initiative, restlessness, bleeding gums and other mouth disorders.
- Mercury / Alzheimer’s Disease Connection Found
A study related to mercury and Alzheimer’s Disease was recently completed by a team of scientists led by well-respected researcher Dr. Boyd Haley. They exposed rats to levels of mercury vapor diluted to account for size differences between humans and rats. The rats developed tissue damage “indistinguishable” from that of Alzheimer’s Disease. Repeating the experiment showed the same results. Dr. Haley is quoted as saying “I’m getting the rest of my fillings taken out right now, and I’ve asked my wife to have hers replaced too.”
- Amalgam Fillings Since 1970s Unstable
The type of mercury fillings that began to be used during the last couple of decades, non-gamma-2 (high copper), releases many times more mercury than the older style of amalgam fillings. Also, please see the article on the instability of dental amalgam fillings by Ulf Bengsston.
- Amalgam Fillings Release Highly Toxic Elemental Mercury
Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known. The mercury release from fillings is absorbed primarily as highly toxic elemental mercury vapor.
- Amalgam Fillings Largest Source of Mercury By Far
Based on a number of studies in Sweden, the World Health Organization review of inorganic mercury in 1991 determined that mercury absorption is estimated to be approximately four times higher from amalgam fillings than from fish consumption. Recent studies have confirmed this estimate. The amount absorbed can vary considerably from person to person.
- Gold Crowns, Gum, Bruxism, Computer Monitors Increase Release of Mercury Significantly
Gum chewing, grinding of teeth/bruxism, computer terminal exposure, presence of gold fillings or gold crowns (even if covering mercury fillings), teeth brushing, braces, and chewing cause the release of significantly increased amounts of mercury from the fillings. Also, please see the following short review related to increases in mercury exposure from dissimilar metals in the mouth, exposure to magnetic fields, chewing, etc.
- Cumulative Poison and Builds Up in Organs
Mercury released from fillings builds up in the brain, pituitary, adrenal glands, and other parts of the body.
- Mercury Amalgam Fillings Effect Porphyrins
Preliminary results from the first detailed biochemical analysis (scroll half-way down) of patients who removed mercury amalgam fillings showed a significant drop in the excretion of porphyrins (important to heme synthesis — heme carries oxygen to red blood cells), as well as a number of other key biochemical changes.
- Potential Contributory Factor in Other Diseases
Mercury from amalgam fillings has been implicated as a possible contributory factor in some cases of Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, IBS, reproductive disorders, allergies, and a variety of other illnesses.
- Mercury Build Up in Brain, Organs and Breast Milk of Fetuses of Mothers With Amalgam Fillings
Mercury from fillings in pregnant women has been shown to cause mercury accumulation in brain, kidneys and liver of human fetuses (all of the areas tested). Studies have shown that mercury can be passed to infants from breast milk.
- Proper Removal of Fillings Produces Eventual Health Improvement
A recent study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine related to the proper removal of mercury amalgam fillings from 118 subjects showed an elimination or reduction or 80% of the classic mercury poisoning symptoms. In many cases, it took 6 to 12 months after mercury amalgam removal for the symptoms to disappear.
- World–renowned Experts Agree About Potential Danger
In contrast to statements from dental trade organizations, toxicologists and medical researchers are often quite concerned about the use of mercury. Lars Friberg, the lead toxicologist on the World Health Organization team looking at inorganic mercury and health effects recently stated that he believes that mercury is unsuitable for dental materials because of safety concerns.
Obviously, not everyone experiences acute toxicity effects from the mercury in amalgam fillings. However, virtually everyone does have mercury build up in their bodies from implantation of such fillings. The large increase in mercury exposure from the newer non-gamma-2 mercury fillings means that only time will tell how much damage has been caused by daily exposure to mercury to such fillings.
Mercury amalgam fillings should be removed only by dentists with experience. Such dentists are often experienced with proper evaluation and placement of composite fillings, both of which can be crucial for the success of the treatment. Biocompatibility tests are often important in determining which composite materials can be safely used. While composite (plastic) fillings are a better replacement than metal.