History of Mercury in Dental Work

You would think that even by the 1800s that human beings would know how dangerous mercury was - and sure enough, humans knew that. As the various dental practitioners in the United States began to form groups, there was a group that was very vocally against all use of mercury in dental work. However, the American Dental Association - or ADA - formed in support of mercury. They were the group that survived and in essence took over the dental environment of the US, so their word is law for dentists who belong to them.

Not only do dentists who belong to the ADA have to toe the party line, but they even cannot TALK to their patients about the dangers of mercury! The ADA code specifically says it is UNETHICAL for a dentist to mention any dangers of mercury to their patients. This makes no sense to me. Is this like forbidding a doctor to talk about his patient perhaps having mercury poisoning? Who sanctioned this aspect of the ADA - the Mercury Alliance?

Interestingly, mercury poisoning is apparently becoming a problem of the poor. In the US and other developed countries, more and more people are choosing to avoid mercury fillings for fairly obvious reasons. However, in countries where they do not yet have our technology, they often go with the cheap mercury options.

Do you know the phrase "mad as a hatter"? This was because hatters worked heavily with mercury and the constant exposure eventually affected their brain. Interestingly, several studies on dentists find that they have memory issues, concentration issues, and other brain-related problems. You would think the dentists themselves would be lobbying to remove mercury from their daily environment.

The ADA didn't even admit until 2004 that mercury amalgam fillings *did* release mercury into the human body. They claimed they did not. Now they have finally agreed that the fillings do release mercury and now the claim is that it doesn't matter. Well, it does to me.

I have a friend who had serious allergy issues and who asked repeatedly, in the 90s, for her fillings to be removed. Her dentist refused. Finally - and I don't recommend that people try this at home - she removed them herself. She literally felt instantly better and many of her symptoms went away. So I take this situation very seriously.

I'll note to be fair that some dentists do feel that the small amounts of mercury aren't enough to worry about. The WHO did a study and found that some people had up to 100 micrograms a day leeching into their body from their mercury fillings. The US EPA has set a maximum level of safe daily intake at 0.1 micrograms per kg of user weight. 1kg = 2.2 pounds. So a woman weighing 140 pounds would weigh 63.5kg. This means she could ingest 6.35 micrograms of mercury, according to the US EPA. Even if you have just one filling, it could release up to 15ug a day. That exceeds your amount right there.

I have to say I'm in the camp that says I shouldn't be taking in any mercury that I don't have to. Studies indicate that over half of the average adult's mercury intake comes from fillings. If I could instantly cut my daily mercury load by half just by removing my filling, why shouldn't I? In modern times the composite fillings are just as good - if not more durable - than the mercury ones. I don't see the reason at all to have mercury in my head if I don't have to.

Mercury Amalgam Removal - Main Page
History of Mercury in Dental Work
Mercury vs White Fillings
Dangers of Mercury
Safe Levels of Mercury
Removal of Mercury Fillings - my story
Mercury Chelation After Amalgam Removal

Lisa's Biology Pages