The removal and the replacement of amalgam, the mercury based substance used for dental fillings, is highly controversial. Most dental professionals assert that the procedure is justified only in the rare group of patients who are allergic to mercury. Yet others contend that amalgam, although it is cost-effective, is toxic even in miniscule amounts. They believe that over the years mercury could leach out of fillings and accumulate in the kidneys, brain and other organs, causing such ailments as allergies, migraines and fatigue. These doctors suggest that many individuals could benefit from having their amalgam fillings replaced with fillings made of another material, such as plastic, gold or ceramic. Despite concerns about the safety of amalgam, the material remains the most popular substance used for fillings in the Us. However, some countries have banned the substances use in dental care.
What is amalgam?
Commonly referred to as "silver" because of its shiny, metallic gray color, amalgam has been used for more than 100 years to fill dental cavities. Amalgam is a mixture of 53 percent mercury, 20 percent silver, 16 percent tin and 12 percent copper. It is cheaper than other filling materials and is still considered safe and effective by many dentists. An amalgam filling can usually last from 8-15 years.
Those who endorse replacing amalgam fillings, specify that it be done very carefully to prevent further poisoning. No more than five fillings are removed per appointment in visits at least 10-14 days apart. Insurers do not pay for the treatment except where there is an allergy to amalgam.
The removal of amalgam
Practitioners of this controversial treatment stress various safety measures for those undergoing the procedure. To prevent swallowing amalgam dust or breathing in mercury vapors that may result from drilling, they recommend that the dentist use a dental dam, a thin rubber film that covers and protects the mucous membranes while allowing free access to individual teeth. They also urge that the dentist use a slow drill, flush the mouth often with plenty of fresh water and carefully vacuum out the metal debris. It is also important that the dentist completely remove all potentially toxic materials, including inlays or crowns that contain amalgam.
The view point of mainstream medicine
The American Dental Association and all the dental schools in the US endorse amalgam. They insist that the mercury in the fillings is safe and that removal is unnecessary except when a patient has an allergic reaction to the material. Others point out that mercury from pollutants in the environment poses a higher risk than that in amalgam fillings.
Extra tip : Some people contend that drilling out amalgam fillings can leave small amounts of toxic heavy metals behind. They suggest drinking milk before treatment. The milk reputedly binds to the toxins and makes it easier for your body to eliminate them.
Various natural remedies have been advocated to remove mercury from the body, including:
- Homeopathic remedies that contain very dilute, and therefore safe, amounts of amalgam. These preparations are intended to remove any toxic mercury buildup.
- Administration of EDTA, a chelating agent that helps prevent mercury absorption during the procedure.
A number of nutritional therapies have been developed to complement natural approaches to mercury poisoning. Some healers recommend an increased dietary intake of various vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins C and E, selenium and zinc, on the grounds that these substances may bind to heavy metals and accelerate their elimination. Other nutritional approaches include various fasting regimens.
Some advocates of amalgam replacement and restoration advice against immediately replacing amalgam fillings with new fillings made of a different metal or combination of metals. They believe that saliva and other oral secretions can possibly cause dangerous interactions between traces of amalgam and the replacement metal. Instead, many supporters of the procedure suggest the use of temporary fillings composed of special plastic or cement materials. The fillings are worn during an interim period of a few months after the amalgam fillings are removed. Only after mercury is fully eliminated from the body are the permanent replacement fillings put in.
As an alternative to amalgam, gold, ceramic, glass-ceramic or plastic fillings are available. However, do not accept fillings containing barium or aluminium, or gold fillings made of so called poor man's gold, which contains the possibly toxic metal palladium.