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.

4 Books on the Mouth-Body Connection that Just Might Change Your Life

Woman reading bookMany who seek our services have immune system challenges. They’re looking for the most biocompatible materials and the least invasive approach to dentistry they can find. Others have nagging symptoms they – and their health care providers – have been unable to identify.

As a biological dental office, we believe the best solutions to nagging health issues require a comprehensive look at the whole person, not just the mouth. We recognize that medical doctors are trained to focus their attention on the body, minus the mouth. Yet current scientific research indicates the mouth can be a focal point for health issues.

This means, the more familiar you are with the mouth’s connection to your body, the more you can help yourself.

One way you can do so is through reading. So we offer up this short list of new books to help you navigate both the medical and the dental realms and bring them together into a cohesive whole.

Mirror of the Body: Your Mouth Reflects the Health of Your Whole Body by Dr. James Rota
If you’re concerned about the materials in your mouth, you’ll want to read this book for sure.

Though Dr. Rota had an inkling of mercury amalgam dangers when protestors first handed him a brochure on mercury’s toxicity, it wasn’t until faced with his own health crisis that he dug beneath the surface of this commonly placed material.

His book not only describes his own journey but looks at the politics behind dental associations and their assurances of safety to the public despite a lack of scientific evidence. It will encourage you to have more than a voice in your health care; it will encourage you to listen to your body.

Six-Foot Tiger, Three-Foot Cage: Take Charge of Your Health by Taking Charge of Your Mouth by Felix Liao, DDS
Using case studies from his patients, Dr. Liao showcases how the mouth and body relate. In doing so, he allows us to see how body symptoms can refer back to mouth issues. From posture, neck and muscle pain, and headaches to numbness, fatigue, sleep disorders, dizziness, and more, your mouth may be the culprit.

This powerful book gives you the tools to

  • Understand the role your mouth plays in your overall health.
  • Recognize that an impaired mouth can lead to health conditions that often defy easy diagnosis.
  • Seek holistic or biological support.
  • Think of dental care as part of whole body care.

book jacketsThe Holistic Dental Matrix: How Your Teeth Control Your Health and Well-Being by Dr. Nicholas Meyer
If you’ve ever wanted to speak up to a health care provider but didn’t feel you knew enough to actually do so, this book will empower you. By book’s end, you’ll realize that no one can know your body like you do. Sure, doctors and dentists have specific training, but many fall back on methods that are, at best, one-size-fits-all – despite the fact that each of us is unique, from what we eat to how we think, the exposures we face daily, the stress we encounter, the foreign materials placed in our bodies, and more.

Not only does Dr. Meyer address the systemic effects of dental materials such as mercury and fluoride, he delves into some of the most challenging dental situations and how they can impact overall health.

The visual resources here – including meridian charts, diagrams, photos, and resource pages – promote a deeper understanding of the material. This particular book will help you go to your next dental office equipped to be your own best advocate.

Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America by Mary Otto

Medical journalist Mary Otto is the only author in our selection who is not a dentist. But her investigative experience provides a well-rounded approach to oral health as it relates to overall health.

From a biological perspective, what we find particularly interesting about this book is how Otto illuminates the distinctly negative effect that the separation of dentistry from general medical care has had. Like those of us who work from a holistic or biological perspective, she notes the devastating and wide-reaching effects of this segregation. But her perspective goes far beyond the individual desire for well-being, extending to the role dentistry plays in societal health, as well. Otto’s book encourages you to look beyond your own well-being to see the bigger picture.

Image by Paul Bence

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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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.

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!

“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


 

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Not Just Mercury-Free Dentistry, Mercury-Safe

hg_wasteEarly last month, the global mercury treaty was officially signed in Minimata, Japan.

This treaty sets standards specifically designed to protect the environment, including provisions for a phase-down of dental mercury – the main ingredient in “silver” amalgam fillings.

But it doesn’t call for a phase-out, even as half of all mercury pollution can be traced to the dental industry. Some of that is waste improperly disposed of by dental offices. Some is excreted by people. As DAMS executive director Leo Cashman notes in a powerful critique of the treaty,

Between 300 and 400 tons of mercury are used globally in dental amalgam mercury fillings per year. Whether the mercury from dental amalgams accumulates in a person’s body or gets excreted into a toilet and out into the sewage treatment system, dental mercury is going to cause problems somewhere. A treaty that doesn’t deal with the dental amalgam mercury problem in a firm way is an environmental and a health failure.

While a true end to the use of dental mercury worldwide remains elusive, there are practices committed to being not only mercury-free but mercury-safe. That includes our own.

Just one amalgam filling releases as much as 15 micrograms of mercury each and every day. That may not sound like much, but keep in mind that there is no recognized safe level of this potent neurotoxin.

When a person chews, drinks, swallows and breathes, mercury released from dental fillings is absorbed by the lungs and the linings of the digestive system into the bloodstream. As they corrode, mercury fillings release ionized mercury into the saliva, tooth pulp, and gum tissues leading to the digestive system and bloodstream.

In general, some people can tolerate amalgam fillings for a long time; others cannot. If you have amalgam fillings and are experiencing symptoms of mercury exposure – including but not limited to tiredness, anxiety, headaches, and memory loss – you should make an appointment with a qualified biological dentist to be evaluated.

Some have reported significant health improvements upon mercury removal and thorough, supervised detox. However, it is critical that, should you choose to have your amalgams removed, the removal be done safely. If proper protocols are not followed, much greater mercury exposure can occur.

That’s why mercury-free is not enough. Mercury-safe matters – for the health of the patient, the dentist, office staff and the planet.

For starters, good air filters in the operatory are a must. The patient will also be protected by

  • A disposable gown and cap.
  • Covering for eyes and face.
  • An oxygen mask over their nose.

The dentist and dental staff will take similar precautions, wearing filtration masks and disposable clothing, including gloves.

The dentist will then use a rubber dam – essentially a square of rubber or silicone – to isolate the operation area so the filling can be removed in small chunks with use of a drill. The dental dam, along with the use of suction devices and copious amounts of water, helps make sure that the patient does not breathe, swallow or ingest the mercury particles.

A recent study in the Journal of Occupational Method and Toxicology demonstrated just how crucial water and suction are. It found that when both were used, mercury vapor levels were about 4.0 to 19.0 μg/m3. When neither was used, levels jumped as high as 796 μg/m3 – and even higher than that when only suction was used.

Here at Pride Dental, we are committed to improving your health by being both mercury-free and mercury-safe. Along with other conscientious dentists who, every day, follow the IAOMT’s protocols for the safe removal of mercury amalgams, we put the safety of our patients, staff and the environment at the forefront of our mission.

 

Learn more about IAOMT protocols for safe mercury removal

Learn more about the difference between mercury-free and mercury-safe dentistry

Image via IAOMT