June 30, 2008 at 2:38PM
by Deirdre Dolan
Im trying to think of inventive ways to make teeth brushing fun for my daughter (who at this point just wants to suck down the toothpaste) because I worry about her genetic inheritance in the teeth department. At one point in my life I probably had 25 silver fillings in my mouth. I remember when my old roommate had her amalgam fillings replaced-- she said she felt much lighter after, but Ive never had the money or motivation to electively remove the mercury from my system. (In the left hand corner of my mouth, where my lips meet, theres some purple-colored residual mercury under the skin. Pretty gross.)
Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Japan have all banned amalgam in fillings (composed of 40% mercury and a 60% silver, tin, copper, and zinc combo), but its still anything goes here. Lots of dentists have upgraded to resin composites or porcelain (only a couple of my silver-topped teeth remain), but amalgams cheaper and easier to deal with, and the American Dental Association (ADA) has always maintained that theres absolutely nothing wrong with chomping on a neural toxin for years and years anyway.
That is, until now.
Last week the Food and Drug Administration changed the language on its website from worry-free to more cautious, apparently because of this lawsuit.
This is the new answer to the question about safety concerns for the dental amalgam:
Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses. When amalgam fillings are placed in teeth or removed from teeth, they release mercury vapor. Mercury vapor is also released during chewing. FDAs rulemaking (described in question 7) will examine evidence concerning whether release of mercury vapor can cause health problems, including neurological disorders, in children and fetuses.
They also advise pregnant women to follow a precautionary principle and avoid amalgams.
I like my current dentist a lot, but have been to plenty over the years who would laugh at me for asking about the safety of their materials. According to the ADA, dentists still fill more than 100 million cavities with amalgam every year. If having your fillings removed seems impossible to imagine without swallowing or inhaling more of the mercury, heres a story that explains exactly how its done.
Or if you just want to talk to your own dentist about your options, at least now you wont feel like youre being paranoid.
For lists of biologic and holistic dentists check out Sustain Lane, or Google for local options.