Mercury is toxic and it shouldn’t be anywhere near your body, especially in your mouth. Removing mercury fillings can improve your health, and the process is completely safe if you work with a SMART-certified dentist. To protect your mouth, here is what you need to know about the mercury filling removal process.
The History of Mercury Fillings
For over 150 years, dentists have been using amalgam fillings, a material consisting of mercury mixed with an alloy of silver, tin, or copper. Mercury replaced gold fillings because it was relatively inexpensive, pliable during the setting process, and durable once hardened. Now, over 100 million Americans have mercury fillings in their mouths.
Although the American Dental Association (ADA) continues to say these fillings are safe, a growing amount of research indicates otherwise. As a result, many health-conscious people are opting to have their mercury fillings removed.
Mercury Exposure and Amalgam Fillings
Mercury fillings release elemental mercury vapor into your mouth, which increases the concentration of mercury in your blood, urine, and brain. As you move your mouth throughout the day, an average of 2 to 20 mcg of mercury seeps out of your fillings, and these numbers rise significantly if you chew gum.
Allergic Reactions to Mercury
Some people have allergic reactions to mercury, and their mouths may erupt in rashes called oral lichenoid lesions. In the case of an allergic reaction, you should have the amalgam fillings removed as soon as possible. If amalgam comes into contact with the lesions, the negative health effects are compounded.
Damaged fillings release even more mercury into your body than undamaged fillings. Signs of damaged to your fillings may include jagged edges on your teeth, pain while biting, and increased sensitivity. When fillings become cracked or broken, bacteria can grow underneath, causing decay and infection that often result in painful abscesses.
Some people argue that removing undamaged mercury fillings may expose you to higher levels of mercury. This misleading fact only applies if you have your fillings removed by a dentist who is not adequately trained. Mercury-safe dentists use special technology to control the release of mercury vapor as your fillings are removed, and you breathe 100% clean air during the procedure.
Reduced Health Complaints After Removing Fillings
In a study in Norway, dentists removed mercury fillings from patients suffering from a variety of health complaints, including fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, lack of concentration, and memory problems. Then, researchers followed up with the patients after three months, one year, and three years. During that time, the participants noticed a significant reduction in their health concerns. The same health improvements were not apparent in the reference group that did not have their fillings removed.
Mercury Bans Around the World
Considering the dangers of mercury, many countries are now banning or limiting the use of mercury in dental fillings. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Germany stopped using mercury fillings nearly a decade ago, and in July 2018, the European Union implemented a ban on mercury fillings in children under 15 and women who are pregnant or nursing. These laws are in response to growing research indicating how mercury can damage the nervous, renal, and cardiovascular systems.
Additionally, the United Nations has also urged member countries to reduce their use of mercury in fillings. Although the United States has yet to do so, the shift in global attitude towards amalgam fillings underscore a growing worldwide consensus on the dangers of mercury.
Removing Mercury Fillings
You can safely replace old mercury fillings with composite resin or ceramic fillings. If you decide to have your mercury fillings removed, you need to work with an experienced, well-trained dentist who can safely remove the fillings without increasing your exposure levels or creating an even more dangerous situation in your mouth.
SMART-Certified Removal of Mercury Fillings
Safely removing mercury fillings requires the following essentials:
- Barriers to prevent mercury exposure
- A special rinse that absorbs mercury and prevents you from ingesting it
- Suction to remove the smallest traces of mercury quickly and efficiently
- Filters to safely remove mercury for disposal
Dr. Nammy Patel, DDS, is SMART-certified through the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, and she is one of the few dentists in San Francisco with the training and experience required to remove mercury fillings safely.
We look forward to providing you with holistic dental care that can help you optimize every aspect of your dental health and physical wellbeing. To schedule an assessment and to talk with Dr. Patel about your mercury concerns, contact us at Green Dentistry today.