Did you know that the metal dental fillings in your mouth contain Mercury? Yes, that’s Mercury – the same heavy metal that’s widely known to be toxic to humans.
To put that into context, if a thermometer containing Mercury is dropped in a school, that school will be immediately evacuated.
Yet many of us are walking around with varying amounts of Mercury in our mouths.
In this article, I’m going to explain exactly why I decided to have my metal (amalgam) fillings removed by taking a look at what the science says about the topic.
What Are Amalgam Fillings And What Are They Made Of?
The safety of amalgam dental fillings has become something of a controversial subject in recent years.
Amalgam fillings have been used in modern dentistry for more than 150 years as a means to slow down tooth decay.
The safety of dental amalgam has been questioned, but they nevertheless continue to be as part of routine dental procedures worldwide.
Finding out that my metal fillings contained Mercury was something of a shock. I definitely wasn’t told this by my dentist at the time, which is a problem in itself.
I was then even more surprised to find out just how much Mercury dental amalgam contains, as I’d wrongly assumed that it would be a negligible percentage of the total filling alloy.
Dental Amalgam is made up of around 50 per cent Mercury, which is then mixed with an alloy usually consisting of silver, tin and copper.
As mentioned above, the safety of amalgam fillings has been questioned, mainly because of the theory that the Mercury released from them can cause adverse health effects.
Are Amalgam Fillings Safe?
As things stand, amalgam dental fillings are generally considered to be safe and are still used in many countries.
In the UK, the NHS says that “although amalgam fillings can release low levels of mercury vapour, particularly when they are put in or removed, there is no evidence that exposure to mercury from amalgam fillings has any harmful effects on health”.
Some countries are, however, phasing out amalgam dental fillings altogether. This is mainly due to environmental concerns about the use of Mercury rather than specific health concerns.
In Scandinavia, use of dental amalgam is more or less banned, mainly due to environmental considerations. Amalgam has been banned in Norway since 2008 and in Sweden since 2009, with some exceptions. The use of amalgam is still allowed in Denmark, but the government has put strong restrictions in place.
An expert report mandated by the European Commission in 1998 concluded that no proven adverse effects could be associated with the presence, placement or removal of dental amalgam fillings in patients and users, based on information available at the time.
Then, in 2008, a report by the European Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, also concluded that dental amalgam fillings are “considered safe to use and they are all associated with very low rates of local adverse effects with no evidence of systemic disease”.
Despite these government-backed studies, the use of amalgam fillings continues to be a source of concern and controversy.
One study from 2011 focused on two groups of 20 people. One of the groups had all of their amalgam fillings removed, the other didn’t. All of the participants were monitored for health concerns over a three-year period
The study found that the group of people who had their amalgam fillings removed enjoyed a reduction in intra-oral and general health complaints when compared to those that didn’t.
Researchers concluded that “reduced exposure to dental amalgam, patient-centred treatment and follow-ups, and elimination of worry” are all factors that may have influenced the results.
This article, which was published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology in response to the 2008 report by the European Commission claiming that dental amalgam is safe for humans, criticised the Scientific Committee for ignoring some of the fundamental concerns around the issue.
In particular, the 2011 article claimed that:
• Dental amalgam is by far the main source of human total Mercury body burden. This is said to be proven by autopsy studies, which found two to 12 times more mercury in body tissues of individuals with dental amalgam.
• Autopsy studies are considered the most valuable and most important studies for examining the amalgam-caused mercury body burden.
• These autopsy studies are also said to have consistently shown that many individuals with dental amalgam have toxic levels of mercury in their brains or kidneys.
• What’s more, according to these autopsy studies, dental amalgam is responsible for at least 60-95 per cent of mercury deposits in human tissues.
A 2019 article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health also confirmed the “irrefutable” fact that there is a constant release of mercury vapor from dental amalgams, which is responsible for individual chronic exposure.
So, as you can probably see for yourself, the safety of amalgam dental fillings is something of a controversial issue.
My Decision To Remove My Amalgam Fillings
I had always looked after my teeth pretty well, but when I was about 23, I had four small fillings put in on my back teeth.
At the time, I remember being offered the option of choosing a metal amalgam filling, or a ‘composite’ filling.
The amalgam fillings were about half the price, and as I live in the UK, they were subsidised by the NHS.
I didn’t really think about safety at the time, as I assumed that both options were as good as each other. I went for three amalgam fillings, and one composite on one of the more prominent lower back teeth.
In case you didn’t know, composite fillings, which are made of a resin and glass mixture, are generally considered to be more aesthetically pleasing as they are ‘tooth colored’ and are basically invisible to the naked eye.
Nine years after having the fillings fitted, I heard about the health concerns related to dental amalgam through biohacker Tim Gray.
I did some research of my own, and pretty quickly decided to have my amalgam fillings replaced by composite ones.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding the issue and despite not suffering from any specific health problems myself, I simply didn’t want to be walking around with Mercury in my mouth.
I made my decision by forgetting about the conflicting studies and reports, and focusing on two simple facts:
1) Mercury is toxic to humans.
2) Amalgam fillings are made of 50 per cent Mercury.
Thinking of it like that made it an easy decision.
Anything Else To Consider?
It’s worth noting that the biggest risk of Mercury vapor exposure happens during the placement or removal of amalgam fillings.
For this reason, if you’re thinking about having your amalgam fillings removed, you should find a specialist dentist who can use techniques to minimize the risk of Mercury vapor exposure during removal.
And as always, you should seek advice from a certified medical and dental professional about your particular situation.
Wrapping Things Up – My Final Thoughts
The safety of amalgam fillings remains a pretty controversial topic.
Whether you decide to have your amalgam fillings removed or not will pretty much come down to personal choice as things stand.
Hopefully this article has provided you with the background and research you need to make an informed decision.
Just remember to speak to a certified dental professional before making your final choice.