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.

“Mercury-Free” vs. “Mercury-Safe”

Dr. Tom McGuire on the difference between “mercury-free” and “mercury-safe” dentistry:

Strictly speaking, the term “Mercury Free” refers to dentists who do not put amalgam fillings in their patients’ teeth. This term was first used over 40 years ago by dentists who wanted to distinguish themselves from other dentists who believed that mercury amalgams were safe and continued to use them.

However, the term Mercury Free wasn’t a truly accurate description because even dentists who didn’t put in amalgam fillings still had to remove them – and the removal process released excessive and unnecessary amounts of toxic mercury vapor. But while being Mercury Free was a good beginning – it solved only part of the problem.

Over time, dentists who were Mercury Free developed protocols and equipment that allowed them to dramatically minimize a patient’s exposure to mercury during the amalgam removal process. In effect, using these protocols meant that their practices were not just Mercury (amalgam) Free – but also were now Mercury Safe – yet they erroneously continued to only use the term Mercury Free to describe themselves. But times have changed and the term “Mercury Free” is not only inadequate but confusing and misleading!

Today it is no longer enough for a dentist who is both Mercury (amalgam) Free and Mercury Safe to just promote his or her practice as being Mercury Free. Why? Recently a survey showed that 52% of general dentists no longer use amalgam and call themselves Mercury Free. But, and this is important for every dental patient to know; not because they were concerned about safely removing them – but mainly because they no longer felt amalgam was a good filling material when compared to the newer composite fillings.

This of course has created a dilemma for patients who believed that dentists who said they were Mercury (amalgam) Free meant they also used protocols to safely remove amalgam fillings. But patients are catching on and now look for dentists who will safely remove their amalgam fillings and now ask this question of the dentist: “Are you both Mercury Free and Mercury Safe?” Bottom line . . . you can’t assume that a dentist who advertises his or her practice as being Mercury – amalgam – Free, is also Mercury Safe – unless you ask!

 

Safer Amalgam Removal


 

Previously

Getting the Mercury Out? “A No-Brainer”

A 2009 British TV program on the dangers of dental mercury:



We’re proud to offer mercury-free, mercury-safe dentistry here in our Arlington office. Learn more…