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Top Ten Reasons to Support Mercury-Free Dentistry

This cause is supported
by this organization:

Charles Brown

Charles G. Brown, of Consumers for Dental Choice

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

See Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project, Facing Up to the Hazards of Mercury Tooth Fillings: A Report to the U.S. House of Representatives Government Oversight Subcommittee on Domestic Policy (8 July 2008), http://mpp.cclearn.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/finalreportfrommpptestimony0707082.pdf (provides a description of the multiple pathways by which dental mercury reaches our water, air, and soil).

See United States Environmental Protection Agency, News Release (27 September 2010), http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/a640db2ebad201cd852577ab00634848!OpenDocument

See United States Environmental Protection Agency, News Release (27 September 2010), http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/a640db2ebad201cd852577ab00634848!OpenDocument

Terry L. Meyers, When less is more -- Technology increases minimally invasive procedures, Dental Economics, http://www.dentaleconomics.com/index/display/article-display/6295266301/articles/dental-economics/volume-100/issue-5/columns/when-less_is_more.html  (explaining that “with the resins and composites developed over the past 30 years, we don’t have to remove nearly as much tooth structure as we did when using amalgam. Before these new materials with their bonding capacity came along, in some cases dentists had to take out the whole back side of the tooth to get enough amalgam in there to work.”).

Davis MW, Nesbitt WE.The wedge effect: structural design weakness of Class II amalgam.  AACD J 1997;13(3):62-8, http://www.smilesofsantafe.com/pdfs/WedgeEffect.pdf.

Marcelo Tomás de Oliveira et. al., Effects from Exposure to Dental Amalgam on Systemic Mercury Levels in Patients and Dental School Students, Photomedicine and Laser Surgery (October 2010, Vol. 28, No. S2: S-111-S-114), http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/pho.2009.2656

See Mercury Policy Project, Neurotoxic Effects of Mercury in Dental Nurses (7 September 2006), http://mpp.cclearn.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/fdadentalmppnorwayfinal0907061.pdf

Sonia K. Makhija, DDS, MPH, Practitioner, patient and carious lesion characteristics associated with type of restorative material, J Am Dent Assoc. 2011;142;622-632, http://jada.ada.org/content/142/6/622.full.pdf+html

U.S. Geological Survey, Peru Mercury Inventory (2006), p. 18,  http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1252/ofr2007-1252.pdf (describing how dental supply shops in Peru sell amalgam to customers without any professional documentation, noting that several gold shops are nearby).

NorimitsuOnishi, In Rush to Find Gold, Indonesians Defy Dangers, New York Times (7 July 2011), http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/08/world/asia/08indo.html

See Bio Intelligence Service/European Commission, Review of the Community Strategy Concerning Mercury (p.229), 4 October 2010, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/review_mercury_strategy2010.pdf

Pan American Health Organization, Oral Health of Low Income Children: Procedures for Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (PRAT) (2006), 53, http://new.paho.org/hq/dmdocuments/2009/OH_top_PT_low06.pdf (“The costs of employing the PRAT [procedures for atraumatic restorative treatment] approach for dental caries treatment, including retreatment, are roughly half the cost of amalgam without retreatment.”).

United Nations Environmental Programme, Mercury-Containing Products Partnership Area Business Plan (2008) (noting that “it is certain that the cost of alternative dental fillings will continue to decrease.”), http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Mercury/InterimActivities/Partnerships/Products/tabid/3565/language/en-US/Default.aspx