Filling You In
the 1820's, dentists have been using a combination of mercury, silver,
tin and zinc to create the "silver" or amalgam fillings that most of
us have in our mouths. But just how safe are they? The American Dental
Association (ADA) states that amalgam fillings have been safely used
for 150 years. However, a growing number of researchers and dentists
believe that amalgam fillings may pose an unrecognized health risk.
which comprises about 50% of the amalgam filling, is one of the
most toxic elements on the planet. The harmful effects of mercury are
almost too numerous to count. Many of us know about the mercury warnings
issued periodically for lake fish, and about the danger posed by a broken
mercury thermometer -- but did you also know that when amalgam fillings
are removed, they go straight to the toxic waste dump?
conducted in 1993 by Tufts University School of Medicine suggests that
amalgam fillings can create bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Other studies have linked amalgam fillings to headaches and depression,
gastrointestinal distress, and even chronic fatigue and multiple sclerosis.
However, much of this information remains in dispute. It's also important
to keep in mind that diseases are complex, and many factors are often
American Dental Association has issued numerous statements asserting
that when mercury is mixed with other components in the filling, stable
compounds are formed, and only trace amounts of mercury remain. According
to their research, there is no convincing evidence that trace amounts
of mercury have any effect on humans. In addition, the existing alternatives
to amalgams -- porcelain, natural resins, and other composite materials
-- are considerably more expensive and tend to be less durable. So strongly
does the ADA stands by its position, that if a dentist recommends removal
of amalgam fillings, they may be found guilty of a breach of ethics,
and can be disciplined. The Food and Drug Administration, the National
Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Consumers Union (publishers of Consumer
Reports) are three of many national organizations that support the
the ADA is working to develop a mercury-free tooth filling that may
someday provide an affordable and long-lasting alternative. Meanwhile,
Sweden, Denmark and Austria have all banned amalgam fillings, and Germany
has issued advisories against the use of amalgams in pregnant women
and people with kidney problems.
are your fillings safe? As with so many other health care questions,
the answer could be 'yes and no'. It's best to do your own research
and decide for yourself. For more information, and links to websites,
please go to the Tell Me More section and
check out the reading list.
by the way, if you do break a mercury thermometer, never use a vacuum
cleaner! Remove children and pets from the area. Clean up the beaded
mercury by carefully rolling it onto a sheet of paper, or using an eyedropper.
Pack it up in an airtight container, along with the eyedropper, and
anything else it has touched, and dispose of it according to the guidelines
provided by your health department. Don't just throw it in
the trash. Ventilate the room with fans, and try to close off the
rest of the house.
Thomas Rau, MD
Tikal: Ancient City, Ancient Power
Tell Me More
Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.
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