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!
Thankfully, 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!