- How It Became Your Dentist's Darling
by Val Valerian
Exposure to mercury from "silver" dental fillings is slowly
poisoning mil-lions of Americans each year. In fact, chronic mercury
toxicity from such fillings ranks among our most serious public
The modern dental amalgam, widely misnamed "silver" and used in
fillings for more than 180 years, now accounts for 79-80 percent of
all dental restorations.1 In truth, however, it contains only about
35 percent silver by weight, compared to 50 percent mercury (with 13
percent tin, and small amounts of copper and zinc).2
Citing the silver-mercury ratio, Murray Vimy, professor in the
Department of Medicine at the University of Calgary (Canada), notes
that average amalgam fillings have a mercury mass of 750-1,000
milligrams (mg) and should more properly be called mercury fillings.
They have a functional life of about 7-9 years, after which they are
usually replaced with another one made of the same material.3,4
Mercury is more toxic than lead or even arsenic. Considering the
mountains of scientific information that have accumulated over the
last 70 years, which clearly show the poisonous effects of mercury,
using it today in dentistry is simply criminal. Yet each year
worldwide, hundreds of tons of this toxic material are placed into
patients' teeth, while some finds its way from dental offices into
sewage and refuse systems, to poison the environment instead of the
The American Dental Association (ADA) and government scientists know
mercury's potential and actual harm, yet continue to promote its
use. They thus make a direct, if covert assault on America's health
while producing large profits for themselves and their special
interest group. Appropriately, such crimes are punishable by death
under the Crime Bill of 1994 and United Nations rules concerning
Within the dental profession, the issue of mercury-filling safety
has recurred periodically. Introduced in 1812 by British chemist
Joseph Bell, the "silver paste"—a combination of old silver coins
and mercury—became fashionable for tooth restoration. Since the
coins were not pure silver, the material often expanded, fracturing
teeth and/or giving patients a "high bite."
When it was first introduced in the United States (in 1833 in New
York), dentists rebelled. They refused to use the "silver" because
it caused immediate symptoms of mercury poisoning. Within the first
10 years most dentists denounced its poor filling qualities and
toxic nature, forming the American Society of Dental Surgeons in
1840 to declare mercury usage malpractice. The society mandated that
its members sign an oath not to use materials containing mercury.
Nevertheless, amalgam increased in popularity, particularly among
poorly-educated practitioners; it was cheaper than gold—the standard
until then—giving the renegades an economic edge over their
colleagues who demanded higher quality. (In those days many
nonprofessionals, including itinerant peddlers, were filling teeth
for the pioneer population also.) Besides, amalgam fillings were
user-friendly—for the dentist, not the patient—and durable in the
By 1856, the anti-amalgam society had lost so many members that it
had to disband, while wealthy businessmen (not dentists) founded a
new group to push the toxic material: the ADA. For a time the debate
The poison had won; the patients had
MERCURY AND THE BRAIN
In the 1920s another controversy erupted after Dr. Alfred Stock,
a German chemistry professor, published articles and letters
attacking mercury fillings for their possible toxic effects. By 1935, Stock's
research proved that some of the mercury vapor coming from dental
amalgams enters the nose, is absorbed by the mucosa and passes
rapidly into the brain: It was found in the olfactory lobe and in
the pineal gland. After a while, however, the furor surrounding
Stock's findings also died down.
Now, nearly 150 years after its founding—and in the midst of its
third "amalgam war"—the ADA is trying to kill the debate for all
time: It has amended its code of ethics to condemn the removal of
serviceable mercury fillings as unethical, if the reason is to
eliminate a toxic material from the body and if the recommendation
is made solely by the dentist.8
According to Professor Vimy, the ADA considers a dentist ethical if
he places the poisonous substance and recommends its safety.
However, if he suggests that mercury fillings are potentially
harmful or that exposure to unnecessary mercury can be, he is acting
unethically. Serviceable mercury fillings can be "ethically" removed
if clone for aesthetic reasons, at the request of the patient
(without prompting) or a medical doctor.
In 1967, the inaugural issue of Environmental Research magazine
featured "Mercury-Blood Interaction and Mercury Uptake by the Brain
After Exposure," the research of L. Magos. His experiments with mice
indicated that inhaled mercury reaches the brain.
Mercury amalgam continuously gives off vapor, and, inhaled, it has
an incredibly high absorption rate—between 70 and 100 percent! Once
in the brain, mercury oxidizes into its elemental form. Then the
blood-brain barrier, designed to protect the brain from foreign
substances in the blood, works against its own purpose, preventing
the removal of the toxic metal from the brain.
Nonetheless, in 1976, the FDA pronounced its "acceptance" of mercury
amalgam, since "it had been in use since 1840." It was added to the
Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list of pre-1930 drugs.
In 1979, perhaps as a reaction to the FDA ruling, research began
appearing which documented that mercury vapor is constantly released
from fillings, especially when they are stimulated by chewing,
brushing or temperature shifts (such as drinking a hot liquid).
Every time someone with amalgam fillings eats or brushes his teeth,
the leaching of mercury into the body peaks. Afterwards, it takes
almost 90 minutes for the vaporization rate to decline to its
Also, the greater the number of fillings and the larger the
chewing-surface area they occupy, the greater the toxic exposure.10,
11 Since hot liquids also increase vaporizing, individuals with
amalgam fillings who frequently drink tea or coffee run a higher
risk of mercury-related pathologies.
The average person, with eight biting-surface mercury fillings, is
exposed to a daily-dose uptake of about 10 mcg (micrograms) of
mercury from his fillings.12 Some individuals may have daily doses
10 times higher (100 mcg) because of factors that exacerbate mercury
vaporization, such as more frequent eating, chronic gum chewing,
chronic tooth grinding (usually during sleep), chewing patterns,
consumption of hot or acidic foods and drinks, and mouth acidity.13
Furthermore, Professor Vimy asserts the concentration of mercury in
the brain correlates with the number of fillings present. In 1980,
the World Health Organization (WHO) admitted,
"The most hazardous forms of mercury
to human health are elemental mercury vapor and the short-chain
By 1984, autopsy studies were published
that demonstrated that the amount of mercury found in brain and
kidney tissue directly relates to the number of mercury amalgam
filings in the teeth. Research at the University of Calgary School
of Medicine demonstrated that mercury from dental fillings could be
found in the blood and tissues of pregnant mothers and their babies
within a few days of insertion.
The Biological Effects of Mercury
Amalgam: Scientific Facts and References
Mercury penetrates the blood-brain
barrier which protects the brain, and as little as one part per
million [ppm] can impair this barrier, permitting entry of
substances in the blood that would otherwise be excluded.
—Changand Hartman, 1972;
Chang and Burkholder, 1974
Mercury exposure from amalgams leads
to interference with brain catecholamine reactivity levels, has
a pronounced effect on the human endocrine system and
accumulates in both the thyroid and pituitary glands reducing
production of important hormones.
—Carmignani, Finelli and
Boscolo, 1983; Kosta et al., 1975; Trakhtenberg, 1974.
Mercury inhibits the synaptic uptake
of neurotransmitters in the brain and can produce subsequent
development of Parkinson's disease.
—Ohlson and Hogstedt,
"Parkinson's Disease and Occupational Exposure to Organic
Solvents, Agricultural Chemicals and Mercury," Scandinavian
Journal of Work Environment Health, 7, no. 4:252-256, 1981.
Mercury is nephrotoxic (toxic to the
kidneys) and causes pathological damage.
—Nicholson et al.,
"Cadmium and Mercury Nephrotoxicity," Nature, 304:633, 1983.
Mercury has an effect on the fetal
nervous system, even at levels far below that considered to be
toxic in adults. Background levels of mercury in mothers
correlate with incidence of fetal birth defects and still
—Reuhl and Chang,
1979;Clarkson et al., 1981; Marsh et al, 1980; Tejning 1968; W.D.
Kuntz, R.M. Pitkin, A.W. Bostrum, and M.S. Hughes, The American
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 143, no. 4:440-443, 1982.
Chronic exposure to mercury may
cause an excess of serum proteins in the urine which may
progress to nephrotic syndrome and peculiar susceptibility to
infections that break into and modify the course of any
—Friberg et al. (1953),
"Kidney Injury After Chronic Exposure to Inorganic Mercury,"
Archives of Environmental Health, 15:64, 1967; Kazantis et al.,
"Albuminuria and the Nephrotic Syndrome Following Exposure to
Mercury," Quarterly Journal of Medicine, 31:403-418, 1962;
Joselow and Goldwater, "Absorption and Excretion of Mercury in
Man and Mercury Content of 'Normal' Human Tissues," Archives of
Environmental Health, 15:64, 1967.
Mercury fillings can contribute to a
higher level of mercury in the blood and can affect the
functioning of the heart, change the vascular response to
norepinephrine and potassium chloride and block the entry of
calcium ions into the cytoplasm.
—Abraham et al., "The
Effect of Dental Amalgam Restorations on Blood Mercury Levels,"
Journal of Dental Research, 63, no. 1:71-73, 1984; Kuntz et al.,
"Maternal and Cord Blood Background Mercury Levels: A
Longitudinal Surveillance," American Journal of Obstetrics and
Gynecology, 143, no.4:440-443, 1982; Joselow et al., 1972;
Mantyla and Wright, 1976: Trakhtenberg, 1968; Oka et al., 1979.
The effect of mercury on the nervous
system selectively inhibits protein and amino-acid absorption
into brain tissue.
—Yoshino et al., 1966;
Steinwall, 1969; Steinwall and Snyder, 1969; Cavanagh and Chen,
Mercury induces the thyroid gland to
absorb an increasing amount of nuclear radiation from the
Mercury has a distinct effect on the
human immune sys-tem, especially the white blood cells. Mercury
ions have been observed to cause chromosomal aberrations and
alter the cellular genetic code. Mercury has the ability to
induce chromosomal breakage, alter cellular mitosis, cause a
drop in T-cell production and kill white blood cells.
—Vershaeve et al.,
1976;Popescu et al., 1979; Skerfving et al.,1970, 1974; Fiskesjo,
Mercury can impair the adrenal and
testicular steroid hormone secretions, causing intolerance for
stress and decreased sexual ability. In rats, it causes
subnormal fertility and sperm production.
—Burton and Meikle, 1980;
Mercury in the body can produce
contact dermatitis and reduced function of the adrenal glands
(Addison's disease), producing progressive anemia, low blood
pressure, diarrhea and digestive disturbances.
Mercury in the human body can
contribute to intelligence disturbances, speech difficulties,
limb deformity and hyperkinesia (hyperactivity resulting from
brain damage). Abnormally small heads and retardation were
present in 60 percent of cases.
—Amin-Zaki and Clarkson,
SCIENTIFIC "TRUTH"—WHO'S RESPONSIBLE?
As the existence of the ADA has gradually become integrated into the
public's awareness, the perception has grown up that its statements
represent scientific truth. The association and its members know
that a conditioned and ignorant public will rarely question any
statement it makes. Thus, when it issues false statements that
jeopardize public health, such as recommending that deadly toxins be
placed in the body, it is party to a criminal act.
Having third-party dentists do the dirty
deeds does not excuse the association, especially since its members
have spent years and much money studying in ADA-approved schools,
and anyone who bucks the system risks his license, his income and
This constitutes extortion and racketeering by the ADA,
punishable under the RICO Act.15
DISCOVERIES AND REVELATIONS IN THE
1990—On December 16, CBS's 60
Minutes did a major story on the amalgam issue that generated
the second-highest response for additional information in the
history of the program. Most viewers thought it would produce a
change in the system. Instead, the ADA launched a vast campaign to counter the knowledge 60 Minutes hadriven the public.
First, the ADA and "responsible" government agencies invested
huge sums of money: They sent special letters and news releases
to every dentist in the United States discrediting the
scientific information presented on the program and assuring the
dentists that amalgam had been used for 150 years so it must be
safe. They also sent press releases to all the major media and
even created a special program for dentists entitled "What To
Tell Your Patients When They Ask About Amalgam."
Also appearing in 1990 was the first controlled research on the
effects of amalgam implants. It cited significant effects of
mercury amalgam on various tissues and organs in experiments
with monkeys and sheep.
1991—Sweden banned the use of
mercury amalgam implants. In March, the FDA recommended "further
studies," and consumer groups and legislators began introducing
informed consent legislation whereby dentists would be required
to inform patients of the content of amalgam fillings (implants)
and the potentially harmful effects of mercury.
In May, a medical research team at the University of Kentucky
established "a probable relationship of mercury exposure from
mercury-amalgam fillings to both Alzheimer's disease and
cardiovascular disease." University of Georgia microbiologists
determined that mercury from fillings inhibits the effectiveness
The WHO reported that exposure to mercury from amalgams is
higher than that of other environmental sources and that each
amalgam filling releases from three to seventeen micrograms of
mercury daily during eating alone. The WHO audited all available
scientific data on the subject and concluded that mercury from
dental fillings is the greatest source of human exposure,
exceeding intake from fish by about 200 percent.
1993—The International Academy of
Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) developed a certification
program for biocompatible dentistry [using materials compatible
with each patient's body chemistry]. Dentists certified by the
IAOMT will have "demonstrated proficiency in replacing amalgams
safely and properly."
Swedish researchers discovered that gastrointestinal function
improves after amalgam is removed. A citizens' petition
requesting a ban on the use of amalgams was filed with the FDA.
The State of California passed a law requiring the Board of
Dental Examiners to develop, distribute and update a fact sheet
describing and comparing the risks and efficacy of the various
types of dental restorative materials. Prior to this, a dentist
risked losing his/her license for giving such detailed
information to a patient. Presenting both sides of the dental
mercury issue to a patient was considered unethical!
1994—In January, the government of
Ontario demanded a probe of mercury dental fillings. In
February, Sweden announced a total ban on the use of mercury
BBC'S "PANORAMA" PANS AMALGAM
On July 11, 1994, the British BBC-1 documentary program Panorama
focused on the amalgam controversy. Dr. Lars Friberg, chief advisor
to the WHO on metals poisoning, told Panorama,
"The use of mercury
in dental fillings is not safe and should be avoided."
also reported on new scientific research which demonstrated clear
links between the mercury released from dental fillings and serious
illness, including Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Friberg told Panorama that he "did not know why" the British
Dental Association considers mercury levels in amalgam "safe" and
that he thought, "They are wrong." He was concerned particularly
about deposition of mercury from fillings into the brains of
According to Dr. Friberg,
[W]e know that children are
especially vulnerable to the amalgam. We know that it takes a
few years after birth until the brain is developed, and we know
the brains in children are much more sensitive than those of
adults. I think that you should try to avoid the implantation of
toxic metals in the mouth. There is no safe level of mercury,
and no one has actually shown that there is a safe level. I say
mercury is a very toxic sub-stance. I would like to avoid it as
far as possible.
Panorama investigated a number of new,
independent studies, some unpublished, which point inexorably
towards the health risks of amalgam fillings. The first is a new
study by Dr. Boyd Haley, professor of bio-chemistry at the
University of Kentucky. He discovered that small quantities of
mercury from amalgams can produce changes in the brain identical to
those caused by Alzheimer's disease. Mercury inhibits the efficiency
of tubulin, a protein vital to brain cells.
According to Dr. Haley:
To the best that we can determine with these experiments, mercury is
a time bomb in the brain. We need to have an effect—if it's not
bothering someone when they are young, especially when they age, it
could turn into something quite disastrous. I still have one amalgam
filling. When I had the others replaced, I had them replaced with
non-amalgam fillings. I would not make the statement that mercury
causes Alzheimer's disease, hut there is no doubt in my mind that
low levels of mercury, pre-sent in the brain, could cause normal
cell death that could lead to a dementia which would be similar to
Panorama also reported on the unique, ongoing study of a group of
nuns by Dr. William Markesbery, professor of pathology and neurology
and director of the Sanders Brown Center for Aging at the University
He is investigating the link between mercury and
Alzheimer's disease and told Panorama:
Mercury is a toxic substance. It is a neurotoxin—that is to say it
causes nerve cells to degenerate if there is enough mercury present
in the brain. The major problem in Alzheimer's disease is the
degeneration of nerve cells. It is possible that mercury could add
to the degeneration of nerve cells—to the death of nerve cells.
The reaction of the British Dental Association (BDA) to the 1994
Panorama program was predictable: It told Panorama it was unaware of
the work of Haley and also unaware of the work of Professor Aposhian
at the University of Arizona who discovered that 66 percent of the
mercury deposits in the body come from fillings. In fact, John Hunt,
chief executive of the BDA, told Panorama, "Amalgam is safe."
The BDA fact sheet available to dentists
"The scientific evidence available
to the BDA does not justify banning the use of amalgam in young
"I've treated my children with
amalgam and have no doubt that when they have their own
children, they will do the same."
Asked about any link between Alzheimer's
and mercury, he added:
As far as I know, there is no
association with mercury and Alzheimer's. We rely on expert
advice. There is no evidence to suggest that merely because
mercury is found in the kidneys of the fetus and young children,
that it is a hazard to health. I don't see why we should
necessarily worry the population at large if there are no proven
arguments one way or another.
The fact that it is there and it
is detectable doesn't mean to say that it's potentially doing
any damage. You can probably find a whole lot of substances in
the brain that perhaps should not be there.
Special thanks to Professor Murray Vimy
for several of the above references and to the Dental Amalgam
Mercury Syndrome (DAMS) consumer advocacy group. For more
information contact DAMS at (800) 311-6265.
J.G. Baurer and H.A. First,
California Dental Association Journal, 10:47-61, 1982.
E.W. Skinner and R.W Phillips,
The Science of Dental Materials, 6th ed. (Philadelphia: W.B.
Saundets Co., 1969), pp. 303, 332.
N. Paterson, British Dental
Journal, 157:23-25, 1984.
R.W. Phillips, et al., Journal
of Prosthetic Dentistry, 55:736-772, 1986.
The United States is exempt from
the U.N. Genocide Treaty of March 1988, as it signed on the
condition that "no nation shall sit in judgment of the
United States." Technically, any form of genocidal activity
is legal in the United States under U.N. mandates.
American Academy of Dental
Science, A History of Dental and Oral Science in America
(Philadelphia: Samuel White, 1876).
D.K. Bremmer, The Story of
Dentistry, rev. 3rd ed. (Brooklyn: Dental Items of Interest
"Representation of Care and
Fees," Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct
(American Dental Association, 211 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago,
J.J. Vimy and F.L. Lorscheider,
Journal of Dental Restorations, 64:1072-1075, 1985.
Ibid. pp. 1069-1071.
Ibid. pp. 1072-1075.
J.J. Vimy and F.L. Lorscheider,
Journal of Trace Element Experimental Medicine, 3:111-123,
Vimy and Lorscheider, Dental
Restorations, pp. 1072-1075.
World Health Organization,
"Recommended Health-based Limits in Occupational Exposure to
Heavy Metals," 1980.
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (18 USC 1961 et seq.; 84 Stat 922).
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