Heavy metal can be music to your ears but not if it is beating the drums of havoc in the realm of human wellness. Let’s visit a heavy metal called Mercury, the element used commonly and widely as the mixing agent for silver, tin and copper. Amalgam or silver fillings or silver-mercury alloy dental fillings have been used for many years as a restorative material for decayed teeth and continue to enjoy record approval rating by the American Dental Association (ADA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA ). These agencies, along with most Dental schools, are dancing to the merry tunes of the belief that once Mercury binds with the other metals, it is sequestered and is safe ‘in human’ mouths. While, there is huge following of that band, a growing numbers of health experts as well as consumers believe, it is ‘in-human’ to place them in mouths. That’s the ‘alternative’ band, if you will. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have deemed this poison a poison, not just for the purposes of occupational safety but also for the environment. The data available to support both bands is off the charts. The fact is, it all depends on who funds the study and how the data is interpreted. Connecting the dots is as much a subjective art and science, as it is objective.
In this noisy concert of conflicting ideas and data, with loud cheering to support both bands, for and against the use of Mercury for tooth restorations, I choose to follow the Scandinavian rhythms. Sweden, Denmark and Norway have taken the ‘Classical’ lead to ban the use of Silver Mercury alloys for use as dental restorations completely. A law closer to home woke me up to take action. California State Law requires every dentist to post a 48 font notice, conspicuously visible to consumers in each office that proclaims – Prop 65 /66 “ Materials known to cause birth defects are used in this dental office”. They do not direct us to specify the materials on the notice. It turns out, Mercury is one of them.
While everyone has the right to their tastes in music, beliefs and poisons, as a Doctor I have a larger umbrella of moral responsibility, to support. An umbrella that shelters my clients and team from Mercury vapors or any other such toxins, one that further protects the immediate ecosystem. As a Certified Green Biz, Alameda County mandates installing an Amalgam separator that protects San Francisco Bay and the local waste water recycling plant from Mercury waste from our office. Left over scraps from the freshly mixed amalgam are not fit for your local garbage dump as per OSHA and EPA. It must be disposed of in a RED container marked “Bio-hazardous waste” and a company is paid to remove and dispose it safely. The safest place for silver mercury amalgams is your mouth.
Arguing about ill-effects of heavy metal toxicity on health is like arguing about God. It’s an argument where no one wins. I’d rather rest my faith on an age old adage ‘when in doubt, don’t’. Amalgams are just cheap, ugly and unnatural anyway, but what’s uglier is the amalgam of denial, apathy and ignorance. Everything is toxic depending on the dose, be it love, ego, anger, sunlight or sugar. We are free to pick our poisons. But, it’s a grave problem when a known poison is promoted as safe for use on kids, pregnant women and populations at large, by government agencies. All of this is going on, when safer, bio-mimetic alternatives are available. All of this is going on at the risk of negative effects on the environment and knowing that it is an occupational hazard.
I can sleep at night knowing we went the extra mile to make our office Mercury safe. We are not just Mercury free, but also guilt free. For the fans of Silver-Mercury fillings, all I have to say is, enjoy your heavy metal, if that’s your thing! For those of you, who are on the fence, please know that you are the conductor of the symphony of your own wellness. How well your health plays out, depends on how well the score you read, is written. When we know better, we do better. Knowing that we have an ‘Alternative’ is music to my ears!
With smiles and a perspective,
Feedback, comments and questions are most welcome!