Silver Linings: Unveiling the Hidden Dangers of Mercury in Silver Fillings

Barbara Tritz
· April 16, 2024 ·

11 minutes

Those shiny, silver “amalgam” fillings.  Many, many of us have had them, especially if you are over the age of 40.  Yet, my friends, these seemingly harmless “silver “fillings are filled with 50% mercury.  (YES, that much mercury!)  As a member of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology  (IAOMT) I have learned just how dangerous these seemingly innocuous silver (mercury) fillings can be to our bodies.  Let’s call them mercury-silver fillings because that’s what they really are. They do great damage to our body, and our overall health.  I have much to share with you so grab a beverage (sweetened with xylitol!), get comfy, and read on!

Mercury-Silver Fillings

Shiny and Dangerous

Mercury dental fillings have been in use consistently for over 200 years old and maybe even longer. In China in 1500’s they used mercury, silver and tin to pack into rotting teeth. The first mercury based fillings done were in the 1800’s combining mercury with shavings from silver coins.  

The idea of mixing mercury with silver was brought to the United States in 1833.  By 1850, it was banned for use by the American Society of Dental Surgeons.  A pro-mercury group then founded the American Dental Association (ADA)  in 1859.  The ADA won that argument and is still supporting the use of mercury fillings even to this day.   More on the ADA’s position shortly.

Mercury

Methylmercury is the most toxic of the toxic metals.  It is ten times more toxic than lead.  According to the World Heath Organization (WHO),  mercury is one of the top ten chemicals of major health concern.  It’s a natural element, found within the earth’s crust, which goes to show not everything that’s natural is good for you.  

Mercury is a neurotoxin!  A poison that we knowingly place in our body!  It affects the nerves, digestive and immune systems, the lungs, kidneys, skin, and eyes.  It can concentrate in the cord blood to the fetus.  It can pass through to the placenta and has devastating effects on the developing fetus with connections to autism.  

The WHO does state a major source of methylmercury is seafood consumption, however, they ignore the mercury filling just placed in your tooth which has over a half gram of mercury  and emits an average of 13 micrograms of vapor per day. We call them silver fillings to hide the fact they are actually almost 50% mercury. We also call them “amalgams” because they are a mix, an amalgamation, of different metals. The attached photo shows that in this particular brand of alloy- mercury silver fillings contain 40% Silver, 31% Tin, 29%Copper – and that this mix of metals is roughly just over 50% of the filling material- with .53 gm to mercury’s .48 grams. Let’s convert that to mg: 480 mg.

The EPA says the Maximum Containment Level for mercury in drinking water is 0.002mg/L. Let’s let that sink in for a moment. Most American adults mercury levels excede the EPA’s minimum risk levels for exposure to dental mercury.

Having the Vapors

While Mercury Vapors aren’t visbile, they should still be treated with great care.

Mercury vapors are constantly being given off from the mercury-silver fillings in your teeth.

Yes, that’s true – vapors are emitted with placement or removal of the fillings, as well as during toothbrushing, chewing,  clenching, and grinding, not to mention when a dental hygienist polishes your teeth!

This video is re-posted with permission from the IOAMT.  Please take the time it watch this video.  See what mercury does to our nerve fibers in the brain at minute 20.

That’s from one mercury filling, and most folks have on average eight or more.

 It was thought for many years that mixing mercury with the silver,  tin, copper and other metals to make what we call amalgam fillings render the mercury inert and harmless.  This is completely false.

Here is a photo of a mercury-silver filling. The mercury is beading up on the surface of the fillings.

HG in silver filling beading up on the filling surface

Mercury Poisoning

Where does the mercury go that’s released from these fillings?  Eighty percent goes to the lungs where it is transferred to the blood system and heads off to your kidneys, liver and brain.  It’s been directly connected to MANY chronic health ailments in the human body such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) , Multiple Sclerosis (MS), stroke and Parkinson’s.  It is neurotoxic and kills brain and nerve cells.  It can pass the blood-brain barrier.  It affects the function of the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland, enzyme production and many hormonal functions at very low levels of exposure.  It makes folks crazy – remember the Mad Hatter?  While Johnny Depp didn’t portray the actual symptoms of “mad hatter’s disease”, milliners were actually exposed to mercury vapors and suffered the consequences.  Could this be the cause of criminal behaviors?  Yes, possibly!  It can be connected to depression, infertility, birth defects, chronic fatigues syndrome, chemical sensitivity, and the list goes on!  Listen to Bernard Windham or to Dr. David Kennedy.

Mercury, once exposed, stays in the body for a long, long time – upwards of 17 years.

The safety data sheet for mercury-silver filling material says it all. Mercury is toxic and fatal. Further sheets say it is “very toxic by inhalation”, “toxic” and “very toxic” and “toxic to the unborn” all under the same column. It is time for mercury fillings to be discontinued and banned from use in dentistry.

My Mercury History

Long ago, (but not long enough) dental staff were taught how to mix mercury with the rest of the metals manually. I had a mortar and pestle and mixed them together.  We had a mercury dispenser, placed a few drops in it and mixed it together. THEN! OMG! We placed it in a squeeze cloth and, barehanded, twisted the metal alloy to squeeze out the excess mercury. My father, the chemist was emphatic that I STOP that immediately.

Mercury sqeeze cloths are still sold…

 I admit I did that when I was young, naive and very,very foolish.  I know of dentists now that have nerve issues, and at a minimum, their hands shake.  Do they have mercury poisoning? Quite possibly. The dental industrial complex does not measure or research the number of dental professionals that have mercury and heavy metal poisoning symptoms.

I recently did a test and still have high levels of mercury in my system. Since I have worked in a dental office for over 40 years, I am not surprised.Vapors travel throughout the dental office. I am very concerned and will be working with my naturopath to remove this from my body.

The Queen of Hygiene needs a Detox!

THE BOTTOM LINE

Bottom line: There is no safe level of mercury in the body.  Not for patients or for dental personnel.  Many dentists and their staff have toxic levels of mercury in their body, as I do.   New research suggests methylmercury causes damage even at low levels.  Even one small mercury filling is toxic. THERE IS NO SAFE LEVEL OF MERCURY.

Why Mercury Affects Some People and Not Others?

Just as some folks can smoke and drink and live to 90 without any ill health effects, so too is it that some people can live unaffected by mercury fillings.  It’s because of their genes, their genetic makeup.  There are people who can more easily rid their body of mercury.  Those with the gene APOE2 have the best genetic makeup for binding and removing mercury atoms into the cerebrospinal fluid and out into the blood.  However, people with the APO-E4 gene are more at risk for contracting Alzheimer’s disease – these same folks  also appear to have lost the capacity to bind mercury.

Also, there are different formulas that make up mercury fillings.  In the 1970’s there was a high copper-amalgam filling marketed which had a much higher release of mercury into the body.

The American Dental Association Position on Mercury Fillings

The ADA says there’s no harm in having mercury fillings.  They say these fillings are safe.  They even imposed a gag order on dentists to prohibit them from saying differently.

Yet the research I have found says otherwise.  Why is the ADA fighting to keep mercury fillings on the table?  My guesses – mercury fillings are cheap (a container 50 capsules of silver filling alloy cost $50 – on ebay. Not sure that is where I want my dentist to purchase supplies but great for cost information.) Mercury fillings are quick to place and are long-lasting.  However, they may eventually cause the tooth to break, (Metal expands and contracts with heat and cold, your tooth is not as flexible as the filling and will have cracks and may break at some point.)  

Thus, you’ll need a bigger filling.  Sounds like a win-win for the dental community.  This is big business.

In addition, there are other groups that claim these fillings are safe.  They have formed a group called Quackwatch and smear dentists that do question and challenge traditional thinking.  The legal fees from these lawsuits keep dentists from sticking their neck out and being vocal opponents of mercury fillings, as well as any other controversial positions.  

While the filling may not be causing discomfort, I hear from dentists that there is often dental decay underneath these fillings. The common refrain from folks who support mercury silver fillings – leave them alone. If your dentist does not practice SMART removal, then yes, leave them be – until you can find a SMART certified dental practitioner.

Here’s the deal – everyone is free to seek the dental care they desire.  I will never work in a traditional dental office that doesn’t take mercury removal very seriously.  I would never recommend my children or family have any type of mercury filling. What I want for my family is the same level of care I want for you and yours.

Outside-the-box thinking should not be ridiculed.  Do your own research and do what is best for you and your family.

How Do I Know if I Have Mercury Fillings?

Mercury fillings are… well, silver-gray in color!  For a couple bucks you can purchase a plastic mouth mirror and take a look yourself.  Or, you can ask your trusty dental hygienist how many mercury fillings you still have in your mouth.  Now, what do you do with this knowledge?!  They need to come out safely.

Mercury -silver fillings and decay

Safely Remove Mercury Fillings

It’s important to remove these fillings SAFELY.   If not, you’ll inhale all the mercury vapors once the dental drill heats them up.  That drill creates gas vapors of mercury as well as particulate matter.  Particulates are the chunks of mercury fillings created by the dental drill.  Often they are left in the mouth, floating around and can be swallowed. Mercury vapors need to be properly addressed so you and your dental team do not inhale them. Vapors are toxic and pass the blood brain barrier.

Here’s the thing – the amount of mercury in one filling may be equal to the amount of mercury in a thermometer.  IF even a thermometer (with .61 grams of mercury) broke in say – a school -they would have to evacuate that school, call in a professional  Haz-Mat team, and remove it under these professional conditions.  Mercury vaporizes and is TOXIC.

One filling has one half a gram of mercury.  

Regardless, it’s mercury, and your lungs should NOT inhale it.  Again, there’s no safe level of mercury.

The “SMART”  Way to Remove Mercury Fillings

Be S.M.A.R.T. and Be Safe

Correct way to remove mercury fillings requires more than just a dental drill and high evacuation suction.  It requires a full on “SMART” protocol – Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique. Be S.M.A.R.T. and be safe.

Mercury silver fillings should be treated just like the HAZ-MAT team does.

Removing these fillings properly requires a rubber dam to keep things from falling down your throat, the correct suction device at source aerosol evacuation system placed right by your mouth, a nasal cannulae into your nose or other nasal breathing apparatus to prevent your breathing the mercury vapors,  while covering and protecting  your face, hair, body and eyes.

Your dental team needs that same protection.  If they don’t cover you and them up, I’d recommend YOU LEAVE – immediately, and find another dental office.   When I assist my dentist in mercury removal, we both wear full-on respirator masks for the drilling and mercury removal.  Very sexy!  Then we clean up, flush tubing, remove the suction filters, and only then place the new, non-mercury fillings.  Be sure to ask your dental team if they practice SMART mercury removal.  If they don’t know what you are talking about, again, time to leave.   You can look up certified SMART offices here. treat this like the haz-mat situation it really is – be safe.

Dental Office Pollution

Dental offices are responsible for most of the mercury pollution into our wastewater systems.  According to a United States Geological survey dental mercury fillings are the leading cause of mercury pollution.  That’s crazy!  There’s an estimated 35.2 tons of mercury into our water systems a year.  That’s 250 milligrams per day per dentist that is disposed into the waste water out of dental offices. It settles into sludge, is then either incinerated and becomes mercury vapor, or used as biosolids and fertilizer and contaminates the soil.  Your dental office should have a mercury separator and do proper hazardous waste disposal.  Your dentist is “encouraged” to practice proper mercury handling but wasn’t required until just recently- 2020.

Where to Go From Here??!

#1. Find a biological dentist – check out the IAOMT website for a dental team near you that practices SMART mercury removal.  SMART stands for:  Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique.

#2. Ask about their removal techniques.  You don’t want them cutting corners.  There may be an extra charge for the equipment and safe removal protocols.  They should have an amalgam separator, high volume air filtration system, and much more- Read here for all the proper protocols.  It’s for your safety, and you’re worth it.

#3. Before and after removal they will have you do a pre and post operative rinse with charcoal or chlorella.

#4. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not have any mercury fillings placed or removed. Either remove the mercury-silver fillings before becoming pregnant or wait until breastfeeding is completed. Your baby needs you to be healthy.

#5. Dental insurance may not cover the higher priced white fillings, so, many folks just get new mercury fillings.  Please, for your health and that of your family, spend the extra money and get an upgrade.

In Conclusion

That said, there is no perfect dental material.  Each has its drawbacks and negative sides.  The very best dentistry is still NO dentistry- practice prevention and take the very best care of your teeth and mouth.  IF you get tooth decay and cavities, seek out a biological dental hygienist, read and learn.  My blog offers many tips and lots of education on cavity prevention.  If you need more help, email me.  I’ll help steer you in the right direction.

Dental Philosophy Changes

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed.  Second, it is violently opposed.  Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)

Hopefully we are almost at the third stage.  Remember, there is no safe level of mercury.

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I learn more, I’ll continue sharing.  While I knew that mercury was harmful, I had been told in school mercury was inert once it has triturated or mixed.  Now, with all this evidence in front of me, I see I was told a lie.  Would I ever allow my family to have mercury fillings placed??  

No, not ever!    Stretch and grow along with me!

Keep smiling my friends!

Barbara Tritz BRDH

Biological Dental Hygienist

Specialist in Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy and thankfully mercury safe.

Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

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2 Comments

  1. J. Shaffer

    Thank you for this great post! My wife and I are in Japan and her tooth broke. They wanted to do a metal filling…which we thought was ancient history at this point. It’s unbelievable that first world countries are still offering these!

    My wife and I had all our metal removed a few years ago, and it was the best decision we ever made!

    Keep up the great work on your blog Barbara!

    Reply
    • Barbara Tritz

      I wish Mercury-silver fillings were banned worldwide. That is my goal. Because it is cheap, fast, and can be used in a “wet” environment, it is still widely used, especially for the poor. Crazy that we use a known poison in the mouth and think it won’t affect the entire body. I appreciate your feedback.
      Warmly,
      Barbara

      Reply

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