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The Mercury In Your Molars Is Safe. Right?

By Wesley E. Shankland, II, DDS, MS, PhD
Past President, American Academy of Head, Neck and Facial Pain


The mercury in your amalgam fillings is perfectly safe. Right? Never mind that mercury in any form in any place is poisonous--except in your teeth, according to organized dentistry throughout the world. The American, Canadian and British Dental Associations are on record stating that mercury, mixed with other metals such as zinc, copper, tin and silver, is stable and produces no systemic health problems. They conveniently forget to mention that they vehemently demand that any scrap amalgam be placed in glycerin, in a closed container, away from dental personnel. Does this mean that the only safe place to store mercury amalgam is in the human being's mouth?

The dental profession in the United States hasn't always embraced the use of mercury in dental restorations. In 1845, the American Society of Dental Surgeons stated that for a dentist to use amalgam constituted malpractice. In 1848 the Society found 11 of its New York members guilty of "malpractice for using amalgam" and suspended them. It's almost an ironic historical note that the common term for mercury in Germany in the 19th century was quick silver with the German pronunciation for quick being quack. Thus, dentists who persisted in using this quack silver were termed quacks!

But what's the problem with using mercury in dental restorations? After all, doesn't the mercury bind with the other metals to form an amalgamation? Doesn't the mercury simply stay bound with these metals forever and ever? Absolutely not! Even the American Dental Association and British Dental Association today will admit that mercuric ions will leave the dental restorations as either inhaled as vapor or swallowed in solution with saliva, to be dispersed throughout the body.

Is this inhaled and swallowed mercury a real problem? Only if you want to stay healthy! When I stopped using amalgam as a restorative material in 1979, such a stance was solitary. Lonely. Dangerous. Such doctors as I were called quacks (rather ironic, isn't it?). We were targets for dental boards and organized dentistry. We were even branded as unethical. Never mind that many of our patients were crippled and dying of all types of diseases, only to undergo a spontaneous remission after the removal of their mercury amalgams.

Today, amalgam manufacturers are required by the American Food and Drug Administration to list all possible risks of mercury when used in dental restorations. Ask yourself why in the world any dentist would continue to use this poisonous material. If mercury is so safe, why would the amalgam manufacturer Caulk list that it shouldn't be used in pregnant or nursing mothers? In children under the age of six or in patients with renal problems? Why has Germany and Sweden made the use of mercury in dental restorations illegal in all persons under the age of 18 or in pregnant women?

Why do the American, British and Canadian Dental Associations continue to urge the use of mercury in dental restorations? Their common answer goes something like this: "Mercury has been safely used in dental restorations for over 100 years." Is that so? How can such flippant comments be made to the public in light of the following, known facts about mercury?

  1. Mercury is the most toxic non-radioactive element on earth.
  2. All amalgam restorations contain approximately 52% mercury.
  3. Mercury DOES escape from amalgam fillings in the form of vapor and is either inhaled or swallowed.
  4. The typical adult has 10 amalgam restorations containing about 5 grams of mercury.
  5. A half gram of mercury in a ten acre lake would be deemed a hazard by the EPA.
  6. Since 1994 in California, dentists have been required to post a warning in their offices about the hazards of amalgam restorations.
  7. A study in Canada has shown that pregnant sheep with new silver amalgams have elevated levels of mercury in their fetuses within two weeks of placement of the fillings. Further studies on monkeys, eating the typical human diet, showed the same findings.
  8. Autopsy reports consistently demonstrate that patients with amalgams have much higher levels of mercury in the brain, kidneys, lungs and nerve sheaths.

In light of these findings and due to the known toxicity of mercury, why would any organization sanction its use if there was even a remote chance that harm may be done to the patient? The American, Canadian and British Dental Associations have the power to either continue the persecution of their members who are "mercury free" or they can apply their power in a positive, humanitarian fashion. Unfortunately, today the right to determine what is healthy and correct lies with such associations and companies whose interests are power and money, not health. But the tide is turning and change can only come when people reclaim their right to be healthy.

    Submitted by Wesley Shankland DDS, MS, PhD.  Dr Shankland is the author of the book TMJ Its Many Faces and has a website at http://www.drshankland.com

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