homeopathic dentistry: Mercury in dental fillings; an update

A recent dental society meeting featured a debate between two prominent dentists regarding the controversy surrounding the mercury in silver fillings. Dr. David Eggleston, DDS, a Clinical Associate Professor at the USC School of Dentistry and a Diplomate of the American College of Prosthodontists, spoke with concern about the toxic effects of mercury. Dr. John C. Mitchem is a Professor of Dental Materials at the University of Oregon Dental School and is a past chairman of the Council on Dental Materials, Instruments and Equipment of the American Dental Association. It was Dr. Mitchem's position that dental amalgams are safe.

The debate was centered on known research from peer reviewed and refereed professional journals. Absent were anecdotal stories that proclaimed support for any one side.

Dr. Eggleston reported that 90% of the mercury in the blood comes from food sources such as fish. This organic mercury level can fluctuate as the diet changes. The mercury in silver fillings is inorganic and permanently affects the brain and kidney tissue. Dr. Eggleston conducted a study in which he spent one day per week for one year collecting samples of brain tissue from cadavers (1987). This study demonstrates that brain tissue from cadavers with silver fillings has a permanent residue of mercury that grows larger as the number of silver fillings increases. Even fetal brain tissue had concentrations of mercury. The research concluded that, while the presence of silver fillings is correlated with significant levels of mercury in brain tissue, the significance of these levels is currently unknown.

A study by Svare and others has demonstrated that minute amounts of mercury vapor are continuously released from dental amalgam restorations in humans, and that the release is accelerated 15-fold in expired air immediately after chewing food (1981). Schiele and others (1984) and Friberg and others (1986) reported a positive correlation between the number and surfaces of dental amalgam and mercury levels in human brain tissue.

According to Dr. Eggleston, the literature suggests that 3% of our population may be sensitive to mercury. The metal nickel is the third highest cause of allergy and is responsible for the skin eruptions from costume jewelry. Despite this fact, the American Dental Association has approved the use of nickel in non-gold crowns. According to Dr. Eggleston the literature definitely shows a correlation between silver fillings and the occurrence of oral lichen planus. The removal of silver fillings has been shown to cause the disappearance of this lesion.

The World Health Organization recommends that silver fillings should not be removed or placed during the period of pregnancy.

Dr. Mitchem maintains that there is no proven relationship between mercury in dental amalgam and any systemic disease. The Multiple Sclerosis Society has issued a position paper which states there is no correlation between MS and amalgam fillings. (Dr. Eggleston also feels that there is no proven relationship at this point since mercury has not been shown to cause removal of the myelin sheath that covers nerve fibers.) Dr. Mitchem stated that there is no replacement for silver fillings should they be no longer allowed. He feels the composite filling is not suitable for broken-down teeth and that many people cannot afford gold cast restorations. He is concerned that many dentists are not qualified to place an adequate composite filling as it is much more demanding than the placement of the silver filling.

The following statements represent my current view of this situation and in no way are the opinions of the two speakers or the American Dental Association.

I do not feel that silver amalgam fillings should be placed in patients' teeth. Teeth with large defects should be supported by gold cast crowns and not non-gold crowns that contain nickel. This does not solve the problem of the high cost of gold cast or porcelain crowns for many patients.
Composite fillings are quite good for restoring back teeth that have smaller defects. Additional training may be needed for some dentists because this is a very technique-sensitive procedure.
The suggestion that removal of silver fillings for any condition except for lichen planus will improve the general health is not yet proven. There is no proven relationship to Multiple Sclerosis regarding silver fillings.
The Mercury Breath Analyzer does not need to be used as other studies are far more accurate.
Persistent dental conditions, both acute and chronic, could be improved by homeopathic medicine. This assumes a proper dental and medical examination has been performed.
The bottom line to this question of the toxic effects of silver fillings is that more research is needed. Fortunately the National Institute of Health has set aside funds for this purpose. The American Dental Association should be encouraged to contribute more toward additional research in this important area.

References

Eggleston, D.W., Nylander, M. "The Correlation of Dental Amalgam with Mercury in Brain Tissue." J Prosthet Dent 1987; 58:704-707

Friberg, L, et al. "Kvicksilver i centrala nervsystemet i relation fill amalgamfyliningar." Lakartidningen 1986; 83:519-22

Schiele, R, et al. "Studies on the mercury content in brain and kidney related to number and condition of amalgam fillings." Institution of Occupational and Social Medicine, University of Erlangen, Nurnbery, West Germany. Presented in the "Amalgam-Viewpoints From Medicine and Dental Medicine Symposium," March 12, 1984, Cologne, West Germany.

Svare, C., et al. "The Effect of Dental Amalgams on Mercury Levels in Expired Air." J. Dent Res 1981; 60:1668-71.

International Foundation for Homeopathy.

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By David Stephenson

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