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Does The First Amendment Apply To Dentists?


Dr. Mark A. Breiner D.D.S.

This article first appeared on page A 15 of the Hartford Courant on June 25, 1999

The State of Connecticut does not believe in the First Amendment for dentists--that they have the right to free speech. Further, the state doesn't believe that patients should have freedom of choice to make decisions for themselves.

Connecticut considers mercury so toxic that if a thermometer breaks in a classroom, it must be evacuated. But somehow the state believes that that same mercury is safe when placed in your mouth. The so-called "silver" amalgam filling in teeth is 50 percent mercury. The American Dental Association, a dental trade union, claims that because mercury has been used in fillings for more than a century it must be safe. The ADA refuses to acknowledge numerous scientific studies suggesting a potential hazard to patients. I want my patients to know this, but according to the state, this constitutes "deception and fraud." On June 30, I have a hearing before the state Department of Health and Addiction Services.

Studies have proved that mercury from fillings goes to tissues and organs--and a University of Calgary Medical School study on sheep has shown that mercury passes the placental barrier and goes directly to the fetus. Another study at the University of Kentucky Medical School, exposed rats to mercury vapor at the same concentration as humans receive from fillings. The changes in the rat brain were the same as those found in an Alzheimer's victim's brain. This is worrisome because other studies show the amount of mercury in a brain at autopsy directly relates to the number of mercury fillings. Yet the ADA and the state claim that fillings are safe. If so, why does the scrap amalgam removed from a patient's mouth have to be given to a hazardous-waste company for disposal?

Very simply, I want my patients to know about the possible risks associated with "silver" fillings. I believe I have both the right and obligation to tell them what I've observed over 20 years in patients who have chosen to have these fillings removed. However, this has upset the Connecticut State Dental Association, which has lodged complaints with the state Department of Health. The DOH has tried to have me sign a consent order.

In signing, I would agree not to speak, teach or write on my beliefs, studies, observations and experiences, not only to my patients but to anyone. This is tantamount to giving up my right to free speech. Also, the DOH would have me agree to take away my patients' freedom of choice by having me refuse to remove their amalgams (fillings) if so requested by them.

Because refusal to sign meant having the matter turned over to a biased commission, I felt lots of pressure to give in. The dental commission is a panel of ADA members who agree to abide by association positions and would thus be inclined to revoke my license. Consumers for Dental Choice, a coalition of organizations, petitioned all 50 states to not prosecute dentists who take a stand on the dangers of amalgam. Unlike some states,

both the Connecticut Department of Health and the ADA ignored the petition. If it is a state's desire to protect the public, I am in full accord. This, I have offered to have all my current and new patients sign a form from the state that notes that the state and the ADA believe amalgams are safe and not related to systemic health problems. Patients would also sign informed consent forms prepared by the state.

Now I am engaged in a fight to protect my rights to earn a living, speak the truth freely without fear of retribution and to treat my patients as they desire to be treated after they have been fully informed.

This article first appeared on page A 15 of the Hartford Courant on June 25, 1999.

Mark A. Breiner D.D.S. is a dentist in Orange, CT and co-founder of The Center for the Healing Arts.

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