Dental amalgam has been a commonly used filling material for cavities for the past 150 years. Over the decades, the material of “silver fillings” has raised some concerns because of one of its components – mercury. Here are ten things you need to know about amalgam fillings.
1. What is an amalgam filling?
Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid (elemental) mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper. Approximately 50% of dental amalgam is elemental mercury by weight. Fillings using this amalgam were once very common, but are now being superseded by more modern, tooth coloured substances. You may be familiar with fillings looking like the picture below:
2. What is mercury?
Mercury is a chemical element commonly known as quicksilver. It is the only metallic element that is liquid at standard conditions for temperature and pressure. Mercury is highly toxic to humans although in the past it was generally considered safe when used as part of a filling However, it can play havoc with your body without you even knowing, especially if you’ve had fillings like this in your mouth for years.
3. How does mercury enter the blood stream?
Mercury enters the human body via three main sources -amalgam fillings, seafood, and some vaccinations. Amalgam fillings release mercury vapour which then enters the lungs. From here 80% is absorbed into the blood stream. This can occur with every breath. Elemental mercury from amalgam fillings can also pass down the throat into the stomach every time you swallow where some is converted to methylmercury which is then absorbed.
95% of the mercury in seafood is absorbed into the bloodstream while many vaccinations can also contain mercury in the form of ethylmercury used as a preservative.
4. What are the health effects of mercury exposure?
Mercury is toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems. It can influence the nervous, digestive, and immune systems as well as the lungs and kidneys. This can result in neurological and behavioural disorders with symptoms including tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches, and cognitive as well as motor dysfunction. Kidney effects have also been reported, ranging from increased protein in the urine to kidney failure (source: https://iaomt.org/app/uploads/Fact-Sheet-Dental-Mercury-and-Human-Health.pdf).
5. How does Coastal Dental Care handle amalgam filling removals?
Coastal Dental Care works with our partner Gold Coast Holistic Dental Care (link) to provide safe and successful removal of amalgam fillings. This process involves the coordination of a full health plan including a heavy metal detoxification plan, supplements, and diet modification and testing.
Gold Coast Holistic Dental Care also uses gold standard safety procedures to provide the utmost safety to patients and staff. Procedures include using a rubber dam, providing an oxygen supply to both the patient and staff, and using a high volume suction device in the patients’ mouth, all to prevent any excess mercury vapour being reingested.
The silver fillings are usually removed in quadrants, which means we remove all the amalgams in a quarter of the mouth at a time as an added safety precaution.
6. Are amalgam filling removals painful?
The actual removal of the amalgam filling is similar to having a regular filling or cavity treated (along with all the safety protocols). Local anaesthesia is used to anaesthetise the teeth so no pain is involved.
7. Is it expensive to remove amalgam fillings?
Removing an amalgam filling and replacing it with a safer material is comparable in price to a regular filling, however, this may vary from patient to patient.
8. How long does it take to remove amalgam fillings?
Most quadrant appointments are around 60-90 minutes in duration. You’ll be back to regular activity in no time!
9. What does Gold Coast Holistic Dental Care offer in addition to amalgam filling removals to ensure the body’s overall health?
Holistic Dental Care has a well-established procedure for amalgam filling removals as well as providing a personalised removal and detoxification program to match your health requirements. This includes treatments like hair analysis and mercury speciation tests, diet modifications and colonic irrigation or enemas and the prescription of supplements to support the detoxification process.
Gold Coast Holistic Dental Care also offers relaxation and naturopathy services to complement your amalgam removal treatment. A range of massages are offered, as well as access to our state of the art infrared sauna and brand new floatation tank.
10. How can mercury exposure be reduced in everyday life?
The first step is to avoid having any more amalgam fillings, and safely removing existing ones. In addition, you can limit or eliminate seafood consumption as well as avoiding vaccinations containing mercury. Mercury can also be present in food and beverages such as tuna (canned or fresh), lobster, salt water fish, carrots and lettuce (unless organic), grains, and seaweeds but also in cosmetics (hair dyes, mascara, skin lightening creams), medications (Preparation H, contact lens solutions, recycled toilet paper, body powders) or even in latex and solvent thinned paints, fabric softener, floor waxes, air conditioner filters, and tattoos. To avoid the consumption of mercury exposed products, read the labels to ensure that no ingredient has the letters MER in the name.
Do you think it is time to remove your amalgam fillings? Please contact Gold Coast Holistic Dental Care to make your appointment or to find out more about a safe amalgam filling removal and detoxification program.