What Wi-Fi Can Do to “Silver” Amalgam Fillings

WiFi iconSure, Wi-Fi is super convenient and cost effective and everywhere. In fact, though plenty of us can remember life before it, it’s increasingly hard to imagine life without it.

But a Wi-Fi world is not without consequences, such as its effect on mercury amalgam “silver” fillings.

One of the latest studies on this was published last summer in the Journal of Environmental Science & Engineering.

Researchers had amalgam fillings placed in 20 extracted premolars, which were then put in tubes with artificial saliva. Half the teeth were placed in an environment without Wi-Fi exposure; the rest were exposed to 20 minutes of radiation from standard Wi-Fi devices.

After exposure, the artificial saliva was tested for mercury. The teeth that were exposed to radiation released more than twice as much mercury as those in the control group. The authors thus concluded that, although much more research remains to be done,

Exposure of patients with amalgam restorations to radiofrequency radiation emitted from conventional Wi-Fi devices can increase mercury release from amalgam restorations.

That mercury, a potent neurotoxin, is then free to enter the circulation and do its well-known damage.

Other research has likewise suggested that radiofrequency radiation from a wide variety of sources may accelerate mercury release from amalgams. For instance, a 2014 paper in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found more mercury in the urine of those who had an MRI after getting mercury fillings placed, compared with those who got just the fillings but no MRI.

Another MRI study compared 240 surfaces on 60 teeth with amalgams and found that “specimens exposed to MRI exhibited significantly higher microleakage values than control specimens.”

Cell phone radiation has likewise been found to increase mercury release from amalgams. In one study, for instance, half of participants were exposed to mobile phone use for four days after getting amalgams placed, 15 minutes each day. Notably, none of the participants were cell phone users at the time of the study and none had mercury fillings already in their mouths.

Our study demonstrated an elevation of mercury level released from dental amalgam fillings after exposure to microwave radiation emitted form mobile phones.

Such research gives all the more reason to talk with a mercury-free, mercury-safe biological dentist about metal-free, biocompatible alternatives.

The Future of Dentistry Is Mercury-Free

no mercuryThis week marks the 7th anniversary of the Mercury Awareness Week, a joint campaign by Dr. Mercola and Consumers for Dental Choice, the organization leading the fight against the use of mercury amalgam in dentistry.

Our office has proudly been mercury-free – and mercury-SAFE! – for many years now. Through that time, we’ve seen more and more practices turn away from amalgam, too. Just a few decades ago, only 3% of American dentists were mercury-free. Today, more than half are.

More, we now have the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty that went into effect just last week. Among other measures to stop the use of mercury in consumer products and industry, it requires member countries to begin phasing out dental mercury – a provision fought for by Consumers for Dental Choice. And that’s just the latest milestone in the movement toward mercury-free dentistry.

  • 1800s: Mercury-based amalgam fillings are introduced.

  • 1830s: Dentists express concern about the health risks of filling teeth with mercury.

  • 1845: The first US professional association of dentists, the American Society of Dental Surgeons (ASDS), makes its members sign a pledge not to use amalgam. They considered its use malpractice.

  • 1850s: A group of pro-amalgam dentists abandons the ASDS and forms the organization today known as the American Dental Association, which continues to endorse mercury amalgam.

  • 1920s and 30s: German chemist Alfred Stock’s research on mercury toxicity revives interest in amalgam research.

  • 1970s: There is another surge in amalgam research, while Dr. Hal Huggins begins his very vocal campaign against dental amalgam. In 1985, he publishes the first edition of It’s All in Your Head: Diseases Caused by Silver-Mercury Fillings.

  • 1996: Consumers for Dental Choice is founded with the ultimate goal to “phase out the use of amalgam…worldwide.”

  • 1997: Sweden officially announces a ban on mercury amalgam, but it doesn’t pass EU administration until 2008. Norway bans amalgam in 2008, as well.

  • 2013: The Minamata Convention on Mercury treaty is signed.

  • 2016: A new EPA rule requires all dental offices that routinely handle amalgam to install separators to keep mercury out of the water supply. Although the rule is temporarily rolled back in early 2017, it is soon reinstated and takes effect come summer.

Learn more about the march toward mercury-free dentistry:
 

 
Yet for all the progress, we still have a long way to go. Find out how you can get involved in turning the promise of a mercury-free future into a reality.

Fish: Methylmercury on your Plate

Fish on a plateDuring this Lenten season, those of us who give up meat on Fridays will be eating fish. We know including fish in our diet can offer nutritional benefits–a 6-ounce serving offers a hefty dose of B vitamins, some minerals, and those beneficial omega-3 fats.

But we’ve also heard other things about fish. Every year an advisory is issued for pregnant women and young children that calls for a limit on the amount and types of fish they eat. That’s because all fish, all fish, is contaminated with methylmercury, a neurotoxic element that is particularly dangerous for a fetus or young child.

Because the amounts of methylmercury in fish vary greatly, to eat fish safely, you need to know what fish are more likely to contain more methylmercury.

But as a recent NPR article points out, lists can be confusing. For starters, you have to know what they are filtering for. Very often it’s for sustainability, not methylmercury . Only two out the most commonly referred to guides take mercury content into consideration.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Regional Consumer Guide or App

  • Recommendations help you choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.

Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector

  • Scientists analyze many aspects of wild fisheries and fish farming operations for more than 200 types of seafood frequently sold in the US market.
  • They collaborate with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.
  • They rank mercury content in fish with a vague category: unknown, moderate, or elevated.

Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guide to Seafood

  • Since government and independent scientists have not reached a consensus on a safe level of mercury exposure, it makes recommendations that are aimed to steer people to toward seafood with the best safety profiles.
  • Until the EPA completes its multi-year process to revise its assessment of mercury toxicity, this guide recommends that pregnant women and children consume no more than 75% of the EPA’s safety level. This builds in an extra margin of safety.

Similar to our ubiquitous and unknown levels of exposure to fluoride, mere avoidance of mercury is not only complicated, but political.

Since 1994, when the first published advisory about methylmercury in fish was issued, the FDA and the EPA have come under scrutiny. This year’s advisory is no different. A public health watchdog organization,  the Environmental Working Group, fired back on the “shocking” EPA-FDA advice about eating fish and shellfish. As an eater, you have to wonder, who do you trust and what do you do?

Concern is a good indication that we need more information, for example:

The answers to these questions don’t mean you can’t eat fish. But they do suggest it may be best to check with a guide or a print off list. Things can, and do, change.

Image by Art Siegel

 

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Beware of Dentists Who Believe Mercury Is No Problem

We just want to take a few minutes of your time this week to share an important article we came across on Dr. Bicuspid, a publication for dental professionals. The article, by Alvin Danenberg, DDS, was a pleasant surprise to us for four reasons:

  1. Dr. Bicuspid is a publication for general dentists, not holistic or biological ones, suggesting that the dangers of mercury are being considered more seriously among conventional dentists.

  2. Dr. Danenberg points out that some general dentists indeed are concerned about placing amalgams, which are, of course, approximately 50% mercury.

  3. The author also points out quite clearly that many general dentists, including a US dental school professor, still believe mercury in the mouth poses no problem, even if they wouldn’t currently place amalgam in the mouth.

  4. He pointed, clearly and accurately, to the science.

  5. “The science,” Dr. Danenberg writes,

    clearly shows mercury is toxic to the human body, and free mercury vapor is emitted from existing dental amalgams constantly as studies such as this one from Science of the Total Environment (September 2011, Vol. 409:20, pp. 4257-4268) show. Just as lead in the water or in paint is potentially toxic, mercury in dental amalgams sitting in teeth is toxic.

    He also offers this:

    My profession is well-trained in the repair of broken and diseased teeth. However, some in my profession are not well-informed of the medical research that has been published in peer-reviewed journals. Highly trained and competent technical dentists need to be onboard with current medical research to provide patients with the best preventive and reparative treatment possible.

    We share this because while many dentists are making changes, there are those who never look beyond their initial training or habit. The fact is, as time goes on, things change. New biocompatible materials, new bonding techniques, and new technologies can make dentistry safer – but only if a dentist is willing to invest in continuing education and then use what they learned.

For you the patient, the best tip we can give you if you’re looking for a dentist is to ask questions. Know if the person you are entrusting your oral care to is not only committed to continuing education but committed to implementing it in their office.

 

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Mercury Underwater

The EPA rule requiring mercury amalgam separators in dental offices has been revoked. This turnabout fascinates us. Mercury is, after all, a known neurotoxin with unique properties.

In fact, a 15th century a German sage marveled at its physical  properties,  saying,

This quicksilver is neither too hot, nor too cold, nor too moist, nor too dry, but it is a well-tempered mingling of all four.

Mercury is seductive.  Perhaps you can recall a fascination with the beads of a broken thermometer? How you marveled at the curious dry yet fluid metal as it escaped your grasp?

Mercury proves itself elusive to our intellectual grasp as well.  For even as scientific documentation justifies our fear about mercury’s toxic nature, it plays an intimate role in our daily lives. This shapeshifter has found its safe haven in the most intimate orifice our body, our mouths.

mercuryThe Minamata tragedy  and others like it capture the damage caused by exposure to environmental mercury. But a recounting of historical snapshots only frames part of the picture. There are tragedies we recognize, and tragedies we choose not to recognize. Intellectually, while we know mercury is toxic, many refuse to acknowledge the damage that mercury lodged in teeth poses. For as long as a mercury filling sits in a mouth, mercury vapors leach out, inches from our brain. It’s a silent and chronic toxin. Somehow, this pollution is still allowed in people’s bodies while agencies worldwide work to contain it in the environment.

According to a 1977 article in The Atlantic,

But even if stringent controls on all sources of mercury pollution were strictly enforced, many scientists suspect that mercury already in the water supply will remain a threat for years to come. The reason is that when “inorganic” mercury salts enter a lake or river, they sink to the bottom, where they are slowly converted by microbial action into the “organic” methyl mercury form which killed scores of Japanese twenty years ago and poisoned the Quebec Indians last year. Once converted to the organic methyl mercury form, the poisons move up the food chain from phytoplankton to fish to man. That could mean that microbes will be converting the 200,000 pounds of mercury now resting on the bottom of Lake St. Clair alone into methyl mercury for the next 5000 years. And the mercury now there cannot be easily removed, since dredging operations would disseminate it more widely. Verdict: The mercury crisis may be forgotten, but it is not over.

Documentation of mercury damage can also be elusive. Certainly, mass poisonings have caught our attention, but overall, we appear to be nation with short-term memory loss.

  • 1953 to 1971 — Residents of Minamata, Japan suffered from mercury poisoning after eating fish contaminated by mercury waste products from a local factory. As of 2001, the poisoning has proved fatal to 1784 of its 2265 victims. In addition, children born to women who ate the contaminated fish were born with cerebral palsy and suffered from chorea, ataxia, tremors, seizures, and mental retardation.

  • 1964 to 1965 – What happened in Niigata, Japan is referred to as the “second Minamata Disease.” With 702 “officially certified” victims to date, there are still 2,400 applicants  going through the application process to certify them as victims of methylmercury released into wastewater from an industrial plant.

  • 1969 — A New Mexico family of 10 suffered permanent neurological damage when a farmer and his family ate pork inadvertently fed with seed grain that had been treated with methylmercury fungicide.

  • 1971 to 1972More than 6500 cases of mercury poisoning were reported, with at least 459 deaths, from consuming grain treated with methylmercury fungicide in Iraq. It’s  important to note the death toll appears to have risen with the passing of time. Shortly after this incident, methylmercury used as a fungicide seed treatment was banned worldwide.

  • 1989 – Despite treatment for exposure to dental mercury vapor,  four adult occupants in a home died after one of them tried to separate silver from dental amalgam by heating and melting it in a casting furnace in the basement. The mercury vapor went up the air ducts and circulated in the home where it was inhaled.

  • 1996 – Dartmouth College chemistry professor Karen Wetterhahn spilled a small amount of dimethylmercury on her latex glove. Despite treatment, she died shortly after from mercury intoxication.

  • 2008 Actor Jeremy Piven was diagnosed with mercury poisoning. Piven at sushi twice a day for 20 years and may have consumed mercury in herbal remedies.

  • 2008 – Tony Winnett died after inhaling mercury vapors while using liquid mercury to separate gold from the alloy, retrieving the gold from computer parts.

In all its forms, mercury is toxic. Mercury is never inert. In the US mercury used in dental amalgam is dumped into wastewater treatment centers at the rate of 4.4 tons per year. This mercury sewage bioaccumulates in the fish we eat. In the US, mercury contaminated fish ushers a constant warning to pregnant women and young children. The set of scientific facts that generated a warning in the US were evaluated in the EU, where the risks were recognized and a ban was issued.

In the US, we’re still debating on how to keep mercury sludge out of wastewater facilities. Even if you never thought of yourself as an activist, you could help keep 4.4 tons of mercury out of our waterways. Read this.  Wherever  you go for dental services, ask them if they use a mercury amalgam separator. The question is a simple act that will ensure dentists everywhere hear what’s important to you. Your question gives them an opportunity to not only do the right thing, but for the right thing to matter.

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Two More Victories Against Mercury Amalgam

no mercuryThere’s been some significant progress recently in the fight against dental amalgam – the stuff used to make “silver” fillings. As you may (or may not) know, those “silver” fillings are actually about 50% mercury and still widely used in dentistry today.

Mercury, of course, is a potent neurotoxin. And it’s also why the European Union has decided to ban amalgam fillings in kids under 15, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. The agreement goes into effect on July 1, 2018.

Additionally, it requires each member nation to create a plan for reducing amalgam use toward the ultimate goal of a total phase out.

“The children of Europe have won,” said Charlie Brown, executive director of Consumers for Dental Choice, www.mercury-free.org, and president of the World Alliance of Mercury-Free Dentistry, www.mercuryfreedentistry.net. “The next generation of European will be safe from mercury dental fillings.”

This new regulation is a crucial step toward a mercury-free future. The EU, after all, is the world’s largest user of dental mercury, going through nearly 100 tons each year.

But it’s also just a partial victory. More needs to be done to protect everyone from chronic exposure to this toxin. Education is a big part of it. Here in the US, most people are still unaware that mercury is the main component of “silver” fillings. They don’t realize there’s cause for concern. They inherently trust their dentist, and most dentists who place amalgams never discuss what they’re made of.

Importantly, amalgam poses risks to far more than just the patient. Dental mercury is also an enormous environmental pollutant – which is why we were thrilled to hear that the EPA finalized its new rule for reducing mercury discharges from dental offices.

Now, all offices that handle dental mercury must have amalgam separators that are up to standard. They work by using gravity to collect solid waste so it can be properly disposed and out of the sewer system. If an office already has separators but they’re not up to standard, the devices must be replaced. All practices must comply by the end of 2019.

“Amalgam separators,” according to the EPA,

are a practical, affordable and readily available technology for capturing mercury and other metals before they are discharged into sewers that drain to POTWs [publicly owned treatment works]. Once captured by a separator, mercury can be recycled.

EPA expects compliance with this final rule will annually reduce the discharge of mercury by 5.1 tons as well as 5.3 tons of other metals found in waste dental amalgam to POTWs.

Offices are also required to collect and recycle scrap amalgam, as well as clean all chairside traps with non-bleach, non-chlorine cleanser to prevent the release of mercury.

It’s estimated that 40% of dental offices already have separators installed due to personal choice or local regulation. But this new rule will bring more than 100,000 US dental offices into compliance.

This is great news for the environment, but again, it’s a partial victory. As long as amalgam is placed in mouths, mercury will still be getting into the environment by way of human waste, cremations, burials, and other avenues. As long as mercury is placed in mouths, it remains a threat to personal, public, and environmental health alike.

We deserve a mercury-free future.

Troubled by Mercury Fillings? You Can Speak Out

The single largest exposure to mercury for most people comes from dental “silver” mercury amalgam fillings. And dental mercury, to put it bluntly, is a problem.
 

 

 
When it comes to the harmful effects of dental mercury, there are countless reports of harm. You’re not crazy, and you’re not alone.

Of course, this puts governments and orthodox dental associations in a bit of a quandary: How to acknowledge mercury as the dangerous neurotoxin it is yet still assure people it’s safe?
 

 

 
And here in the States, the tune is much the same.

If you suspect exposure to mercury has harmed you, you can report your experience to the Federal Drug Administration. Here’s everything you need to know about how to go make you’re your voice is heard. When you share your story with the FDA, you help bring us all closer to a mercury free world.

And, a mercury-free world will be a safer world for everyone.

For Full & Fair Dental Insurance Reimbursement, DEMAND Your Choice

This week is Mercury Awareness Week, a joint campaign by Dr. Mercola and Consumers for Dental Choice to educate people on the problem of dental mercury and the promise of a mercury-free future. Until August 28, 2016, any donation you make to Consumers’ will be matched in full by Dr. Mercola – up to $100,000!

Mercury Awareness Week

Your donation will not only help Consumers for Dental Choice get the word out about the devastating health effects of mercury exposure. It may help you get better insurance coverage on your next dental visit.

If you have dental insurance, you may already know there’s built in bias for mercury amalgam fillings. Amalgam – the fastest, cheapest, most toxic material used to fill teeth – sets the lowest bar that your insurance company uses to determine their “usual and customary” allowance.

Not only does the fiction of “usual and customary” reduce reimbursement, but the fine print of any dental insurance policy may further limit your affordable access to mercury-free dentistry in these ways:

  • Many insurance policies only pay for amalgam in molars. If you want composite, you have to pay out-of-pocket.
  • Many insurance policies that do pay for composite fillings in molars only cover them up to the cost of an amalgam, then leave you to pay the difference.
  • Many insurance policies claim to cover “silver fillings” but don’t tell unsuspecting customers that there’s no such thing as a “silver filling.” They’re mostly mercury.
  • Many insurance policies will not pay for the removal of old amalgams and replacement with composite fillings — even if your dentist believes that’s the best treatment.

And if you ever wondered why some dentists prefer to place amalgams, you should know it’s not only because it’s just what they were taught. Amalgams require little technical skill to place. They only require a crater in your tooth and some packing down of the metal. You don’t need a dry field. No prime, etch, or bond. No layering of materials. No light curing.

This means mercury-filled teeth are fast-filled teeth. The faster they’re placed, the more patients that can be seen. The more patients seen, the more production a dentist can do.

This ability to increase production not only increases what the dentist can earn, but since those amalgams will be reimbursed by insurance, the dentist doesn’t have to wait for payment.

If you feel that everyone should have an affordable choice about what goes into their mouth, if you’d like to see lower priced dental options for mercury-free restorations, if you’d like to see your insurance company pay an equitable amount, if you think it’s time for insurance to catch up with scientific research that supports safer dentistry, then it’s time to DEMAND Your Choice.

This latest campaign by Consumers for Dental Choice provides you with several ways to take action right now and end the “bait and switch” tactics of the insurance companies. There’s a petition you can sign, a letter you can customize and send to your insurer, and a widget you can place on your own site or blog to further spread the word.

We can make a change. But we all need to work together to make a mercury-free future a reality.

Make a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice.

Learn more about Consumers for Dental Choice.

Then/Now: Mercury Amalgam Fillings & Human Health

In 1990, Morley Safer framed a 60 Minutes episode around one simple question: “Is There a Poison in Your Mouth?”

He was referring, of course, to those little “silver” fillings that many people, especially in 1990, didn’t know contain at least 50% mercury. This classic exploration of the mercury in our mouths acknowledged some facts that even today are news to a lot of folks:

  • Mercury is toxic. Really, really TOXIC.
  • Even when mercury is amalgamated – combined with other metals – low levels of mercury vapor are constantly emitted from “silver” amalgam fillings.
  • There’s no scientific evidence supporting the ADA claims that mercury or its vapors are “not going to cause a problem.”
  • FDA oversight on mercury amalgam does not include scientific oversight.
  • Patients have a right to know about the risks of mercury fillings.
  • The ADA issued gag orders and threats of prosecution for “unethical behavior” for any dentists who spoke out against mercury.

 

 
As controversial as this all was back in 1990, it did little to change dentistry. In 2015, journalists were still asking the same question: “Are the Fillings in Your Mouth Toxic?”

To this day, the ADA has the same basic spiel about mercury amalgam:

Dental amalgam is considered a safe, affordable, and durable material that has been used to restore the teeth of more than 100 million Americans.

You might notice the ADA never points toward any science that proves their claim of safety. Instead rather, they imply safety exists in numbers. They invoke the 160+ years that amalgam has been in use. It’s an appeal to tradition – and a logical fallacy (“argumentum ad antiquitatem,” if you want to get fancy and Latin about it).

Still, there’s a glimmer of light on the horizon: The Minamata Convention on Mercury. This treaty is meant to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. It includes steps for a “phase down” of dental mercury.

To date, mercury amalgam placement has been banned in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and largely in Japan. In addition, the European Environmental Bureau asked European Union member state representatives to support a phase out. Though the US has signed the treaty, the government has yet to take any action.

Still, it offers some hope that someday, dentistry – and other industries – will finally be mercury-free, and our planet a better place for it.

Celebrating Mercury-Free Dentistry

Filling cavities may seem like a really modern thing, but archaeologists have shown that the practice goes way, way back. The earliest known filling is about 6500 years old and made of beeswax. More recently, an even older tooth was found to have once been “drilled” out with flint – about 14,000 years ago!

amalgam vs. composite fillingsThankfully, we’ve come a long way from “drilling” with rock, yet many dentists persist in using one antique technique: filling decayed teeth with mercury “silver” amalgam. The good news is that increasing numbers of them don’t, having opted to go mercury-free.

This week marks the 5th annual Mercury-Free Dentistry Week – an event to celebrate the successes of the mercury-free movement and continue to build awareness. Each day, we’re a bit closer to the end of metal-centric dentistry.

As mentioned, “silver” amalgams are actually about 50% mercury – a well-known neurotoxin. With every bite and swallow, small amounts of the metal are off-gassed and enter the circulation. Some of this mercury is excreted. Some may come to be stored in the body. The potential effects on health are wide-ranging and numerous.

Because of the risks, our office is not only mercury-free but mercury-safe. We do not place amalgam AND we follow strict safety procedures to protect you and our staff and our environment from mercury exposure. This includes

  • Using rubber dam to isolate the teeth and protect the oral cavity.
  • Removing the fillings in chunks so as not to vaporize the mercury, while using copious amounts of water.
  • Using a state-of-the-art Swiss air HEPA filter/vacuum next to the patient and a whole-room purification system to keep the air clean.
  • Rinsing with chlorella to remove any mercury particles.

For more information on safe mercury removal, see this guide from the IAOMT.

With each year, we hope there are fewer amalgams to replace – not because we don’t want to help but because we want to see mercury-free alternatives used. We want fewer amalgams placed. And that goal is slowly becoming reality thanks to developments such as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which has been ratified by 140 countries and includes measures toward a global phase-down of dental amalgam.

But it’s also thanks to people like you. Your support, trust and advocacy are helping change the world.

We can’t wait to see what the next year brings!