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The Debate Over Mercury in Dental Fillings

The debate over the safety of mercury in dental fillings shows no sign of quieting down.

Removing Silver Fillings

As far as mercury in fillings goes, "If I had immune problems or anything that would make me subject to getting an infection, I would do anything I could to boost my immune system and decrease my chance of infection including purging all metals from my mouth," Davis tells WebMD. But "for the general public, mercury in fillings is not that much of a problem."

Davis often advises patients to consider having silver fillings removed if they are large fillings that can make the tooth weak over time. "I recommend that my patients do it over several years," he says, by removing and replacing one quarter of the mouth at a time. "Over time, your whole mouth will be upgraded."

"Just like you find with fluoridation, [some people] feel no matter what anybody says about this procedure they are wrong and there is a problem," says Erie, Pa.-based dentist William Glecos, DDS. Glecos is a past chairman of the environmental task force for the Pennsylvania Dental Association.

Dental amalgam is about 50% liquid mercury and 50% a combination of alloy powder (metals composed of silver, tin, copper and others). "The mercury is what binds all the other powders together," Glecos says. "Even if you remove these fillings and they leach into the waste water, just 0.006% of mercury in amalgam will leak out," he says.

The main pluses of amalgam fillings are that "they are economic and tend to be very durable and can be used in situations that are not ideal," Glecos says. "One of the problems with the white fillings are that they are very sensitive and need a certain environment to be used; they are also very costly and not as durable," he says.

The View of Mercury Opponents

This doesn't mean too much to public health advocate Freya Koss, the development director of Consumers for Dental Choice in Wynewood, Pa. She is also director of development for the Pennsylvania Coalition for Mercury Free Dentistry. It is Koss's mission to alert the public to the dangers of mercury in fillings.

Close to a week after a dental visit several years ago, Koss was struck with double vision -- seemingly out of nowhere. Her dentist had drilled out some old mercury fillings and replaced them with a new batch. After visiting several specialists and undergoing a battery of tests, a doctor told her that based on the results, she either had MS or lupus.

But Koss refused to take this diagnosis lying down. "I had a light bulb moment on the Web, when I read a woman's story about similar symptoms brought on by mercury poisoning," she says. "I wasn't crazy. I wasn't alone."

After having the fillings carefully removed and going on a detox plan rich in antioxidants, Koss began to feel better slowly. Her symptoms continued long after she identified the cause. In fact, she had a drooping eyelid for 3.5 years.

"The symptoms of mercury poisoning are insidious, and you can have a variety of symptoms through the years," she tells WebMD.

"Do research and find out what tests are being used to determine mercury poisoning," she says. "And make sure you find a mercury-free dentist who follows the protocol for safe amalgam removal. Be your own advocate."

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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