One argument you hear some dentists make in defense of amalgam is that it’s a sturdier, stronger and more forgiving material to work with. They may point to studies such as the one recently published in the European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, which found that amalgam fillings were less prone to failure than composite (by a little) or glass ionomer (by a lot).
But to focus on this issue completely sidesteps the fact that amalgam is 50% mercury. And that mercury is a known neurotoxin, with no safe level of exposure. And that mercury vapor is constantly released from these fillings only to be methylated in the mouth and elsewhere in the body. And that this is happening mere inches from the brain.
Now consider that the human brain is not fully developed until a person is in their mid-20s. Does it seem wise to put this material into the mouths of children or even teens?
Heavy metal toxicity, notes DAMS, has been linked to a many neurological and behavioral problems in children, including:
- Obsessive/compulsive disorders.
- Mood disorders.
- Cognitive impairments.
A 2014 study in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences looked at the relationship between neurobehavioral changes and changes of gene expression in response to a variety of mercury exposures. “Since the developing brain is extremely vulnerable to mercury toxicity,” wrote the researchers, “the repeated exposure of fetuses and neonates to Hg0 affects neurobehavioral functions.”
The results of the present study also indicate that an increase in the number of altered genes in the brain may be involved in the emergence of neurobehavioral effects, which may be associated with the concentration of mercury in the brain. An increase in the number of genes with altered expression levels implies that changes have occurred in the internal environment of the brain, which may be closely associated with the emergence of neurotoxicity.
A 2011 study in the Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care explains that chronic mercury exposure is problematic at any growth stage.
Because important systems are still differentiating and growing, children have unique susceptibilities not seen in adults—and critical time windows for those susceptibilities. The critical times are preconception, gestation, and postnatal. More than 1 system can be susceptible and different pathology may occur depending on the dose and timing of exposure. The fetus and infant are especially vulnerable to mercury exposures. Of special interest is the development of the central nervous system. With the formation of neuronal cells and the subsequent stages of development, the central nervous system is created. Damage of the nervous system caused by mercury is likely to be permanent. Neurotoxic effects can result from prenatal or early postnatal exposure.
Mercury from amalgam fillings is just one of the largest sources of exposure. Even if the child never has such fillings, they – like all of us – are still affected by mercury pollution from dental offices (mercury entering the water supply) and crematorium emissions. This is above and beyond other industrial pollution and mercury in seafood.
Is it any wonder rates of childhood neurological conditions have skyrocketed?
Fortunately, there are safe and durable alternatives to amalgam when fillings are called for. And there’s an even better alternative to those: a truly comprehensive preventive approach so that fillings are never needed at all.