Top Ten Reasons to Support Mercury-Free Dentistry
- Amalgam pollutes our environment
Amalgam pollutes 1) water via dental clinic releases and human waste; 2) air via cremation, dental clinic emissions, sludge incineration, and respiration; and 3) land via landfills, burials, and fertilizer. Once in the environment, dental mercury converts to its even more toxic form: methylmercury and becomes a major source of mercury in the fish people eat. Dental mercury in the environment can cause brain damage and neurological problems, especially for children and the unborn babies, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
- Amalgam endangers our health
Amalgam emits mercury vapor even after it is implanted into the body. This mercury is bioaccumulative, and it crosses the placenta to accumulate in fetuses as well. Dental amalgam’s mercury is a known health risk, especially for children, fetuses, nursing infants, and people with impaired kidney function especially. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concedes that the developing neurological systems of children and fetuses are more susceptible to “the neurotoxic effects of mercury vapor” – and that there is no evidence that amalgam is safe for these populations.
- Amalgam damages teeth
Placing amalgam requires the removal of a significant amount of healthy tooth matter. This removal, in turn, weakens overall tooth structure which increases the need for future dental work. On top of that, amalgam fillings – which expand and contract over time – crack teeth and once again create the need for still more dental work.
- Amalgam endangers dental workers
Due to mercury exposure from amalgam in the workplace, studies have shown that dental workers have elevated systemic mercury levels. Few of these dental workers – mostly women of child-bearing age – are given protective garb or air masks to minimize their exposure to mercury; many are not aware of the risks of occupational mercury exposure. As a result, dental workers have reported neurological problems, reproductive failures, and birth defects caused by amalgam in the workplace.
- Amalgam is frequently implanted without informed consent
Most dentists do not inform consumers that amalgam contains mercury. As a result, over 76% of consumers do not know that amalgam is mainly mercury according to Zogby polls. But once they are informed, 77% of people do not want mercury fillings – and they were even willing to pay more to avoid this unnecessary source of mercury exposure.
- Amalgam perpetuates social injustice
While middle class consumers opt for mercury-free filling materials, people in developing nations, low-income families, minorities, military personnel, prisoners, and people with disabilities are still subjected to amalgam. Racial minorities are more likely to receive amalgam; for example, dentists place almost 25% more mercury fillings in American Indian patients than in white patients. In his testimony before Congress, former Virginia state NAACP president Emmitt Carlton described this injustice as “choice for the rich, mercury for the poor.”
- Amalgam costs taxpayers
Taxpayers foot the bill for the environmental clean-up of amalgam and the medical care associated with mercury-related health problems. Meanwhile, the dentists who dump their mercury into our environment and our bodies are not held financially responsible.
- Amalgam is diverted to illegal gold mining
Amalgam is commonly shipped to developing countries labeled for dental use, but then it is diverted to illegal use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Not only are the miners exposed to the risks of mercury poisoning, but the dental mercury they use to extract gold is released into the environment.
- Amalgam is interchangeable with mercury-free filling materials
Amalgam is interchangeable with numerous other filling materials – including resin composites, compomers, and glass ionomers – that have rendered amalgam completely unnecessary for any clinical situation. In fact, the mercury-free alternatives have made amalgam so non-essential that entire nations, such as the Scandinavian countries, have banned the use of amalgam. Developing nations have benefitted from modern mercury-free techniques, such as atraumatic restorative treatment (ART), that only cost half as much as amalgam and make dental care more accessible.
- Amalgam drives up the price of mercury-free alternatives
The continued use of amalgam keeps the price of mercury-free filling materials high by decreasing demand for these alternatives. As use of mercury-free materials increases, their price is expected to decrease even further.