DENTAL FILLINGS: A SURPRISING RISK FACTOR FOR CANCER
Today I am going to tell you about a potential risk factor for cancer that will most likely surprise you—dental fillings!
The Dangers of Silver Amalgam Fillings
Silver amalgam fillings are the type of dental fillings most commonly used in the United States. Despite their name, such fillings actually contain 50% mercury and only 25% silver. Most people who have such fillings in their mouths are unaware that they contain mercury. In fact, a conducted by Zogby International in 2006 found that 72% of respondents did not know that mercury was a main component of dental amalgams, and 92% of respondents said they wanted to be told about mercury in dental amalgam before receiving it as a filling. However, dentists who use silver amalgams often do not inform their patients that they contain mercury.
Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal, and its dangers have been known for centuries. You may recall the Mad Hatter, from Alice in Wonderland. In England of old, there really were “mad hatters.” This was the name given to hat makers of the time, many of whom were considered to be quite mad. In actuality, they suffered from mental illnesses caused by their regular exposure to mercury, which they used for treating the fur that was common to hats in those days. As a result, the phrase “mad as a hatter” began to be used to describe anyone who exhibited similar mental traits.
Fortunately the use of mercury to treat fur no longer exists. But the same cannot be same of other industries, including medicine (mercury in the form of thimerosal is still used in certain vaccines and has been linked to a sharp rise in the incidence of autism) and, as mentioned, dentistry.
By some estimates, as many as 100 million amalgam fillings containing mercury are placed in the mouths of dental patients in the U.S. each year.
Despite outcries from health experts over the last two decades calling for an end to the use of amalgam fillings, the American Dental Association (ADA) has steadfastly refused to do so. Instead, the ADA not insists that silver amalgam fillings are safe, and it continues to harass dentists who speak out against such fillings. According to a Boston College Law School study, the ADA has even gone so far as to forbid dentists from suggesting mercury removal and threatening them with the suspension of their license to practice dentistry if they do so.
Here is a statement from the ADA taken directly from their website (see http://www.ada.org/3094.aspx):
“While questions have arisen about the safety of dental amalgam relating to its mercury content, the major U.S. and international scientific and health bodies, including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization, among others have been satisfied that dental amalgam is a safe, reliable and effective restorative material.”
You can add to this list the American Cancer Society (ACS), which also claims that amalgam fillings are safe, although the ACS does concede, “Some people do, however, have metal allergies that can lead to problems in the mouth if they have metal fillings. In a few people, certain kinds of mouth sores or spots, called contact lesions or oral lichen planus will develop.”
I’m here to tell you that you cannot believe such statements.
The dangers of dental amalgams have been established by scientific research. For example, a peer-review study published in 2005 by the Freiburg University Institute for Environmental Medicine found that “mercury from dental amalgam may lead to nephrotoxicity [kidney poisoning], neurobehavioural changes, autoimmunity [autoimmune disease], oxidative stress, autism, skin and mucosa alterations or non-specific symptoms and complaints,” and that Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis [MS] have “also been linked to low-dose mercury exposure.” The authors of the study also noted that “removal of dental amalgam leads to permanent improvement of various chronic complaints in a relevant number of patients in various trials.”
Recognizing these facts, the governments of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have all banned the use of silver amalgam fillings, making their use illegal. Other countries, such as Austria and Germany, ban the use of amalgams in children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions, while in Japan the use of amalgams is tightly regulated. And even the World Health Organization (WHO) admits that amalgams account for over 50% of all mercury emissions in the world. A 2003 monograph published by the WHO stated, “Studies on humans and animals have demonstrated that dental amalgam contributes significantly to mercury body burden in humans with amalgam fillings.”
Although the official US policy on amalgams continues to be that they are safe, since 2001 the state of California now insists that all dental offices with ten or more employees must provide notices on the contents of dental fillings. The mandated notice reads:
Notice to Patients, Proposition 65: Warning on dental amalgams, used in many dental fillings, causes exposure to mercury, a chemical known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Root canal treatments and restorations including fillings, crowns and bridges, use chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has studied the situation and approved for use all dental restorative materials. Consult your dentist to determine which materials are appropriate for your treatment.
So why, you might ask, are dental amalgams still allowed to be used throughout the U.S., while in other countries they are banned or tightly regulated?
In large part, the answer lies with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Despite the fact that mercury is a well-known toxic substance, the FDA has classified amalgams as a “device,” not a “substance.” As a result of this legal sleight-of-hand, under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, amalgams listed as:
Amalgam Alloy, (a) Identification. An amalgam alloy is a device that consists of a metallic substance intended to be mixed with mercury to form filling material for treatment of dental caries. (b) Classification. Class II. (21 CFR 872.3050 (2001))
Because of this classification amalgams are not subject to official government testing in the United States, unlike substances.
How Dental Amalgams Can Contribute to Cancer
Dental amalgams can increase your risk of cancer in a variety of ways. Mercury is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), and exposure to it can significantly impair your body’s immune system which is your primary defense against cancer, as well as many other diseases. Additionally, mercury exposure can cause increased production of free radicals. Free-radical damage to cellular DNA is a primary cause of cancer.
Although the ADA, along with other health organizations and government agencies would like you to believe that the mercury in amalgams is safely contained within the amalgams themselves, in actuality mercury vapor is continuously released from amalgam fillings. These vapors are then inhaled by those who have amalgam fillings every single hour of every single day that the amalgams remain present. As the mercury vapor is inhaled, it is readily absorbed into the blood. This process contributes to between 80 to 100 percent absorption through the lungs, from which mercury is then carried to every cell in the body, including the cells of the brain.
Additionally, after mercury is inhaled into the body, it is converted to its organic form (methylmercury), a substance that is 100 times more toxic than elemental mercury (the form used in amalgams). Methylmercury is also far more easily able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which is why it is associated with numerous neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, MS, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Once in the body, mercury can also block the enzymes necessary for the body’s normal processes of detoxification. When these processes are impaired, toxins more easily spread through the body, where they can harm cellular DNA, setting the stage for cancer to occur. Mercury has also been shown to cause damage to the linings of the arteries and nerve bundles (ganglia), particularly those near the prostate gland, thereby causing prostate cancer in men.
Chronic exposure to mercury through inhaled mercury vapors can also disrupt your body’s glutathione enzyme system. This system plays a crucial role in fighting free radicals and preventing damage to DNA and cell membranes, both of which are vitally important for preventing and recovering from cancer.
Because of the serious health threats posed by amalgam toxicity, a growing number of alternative and integrative cancer specialists now routinely advise their cancer patients to have their mercury amalgams replaced. Some cancer clinics even work directly with holistic dentists to ensure their patients have their amalgams removed properly. You can find such doctors and clinics on my website.
So long as amalgams continued to be classified by the FDA as a device and not a substance, we cannot reasonably expect them to be banned in the U.S. Therefore, it is up to people who require dental fillings to become informed of their potential health risks, including cancer, and to seek out non-toxic filling alternatives. As for people who already have dental amalgams in their mouth, they should seriously consider having them replaced. But to do so, be sure to select a dentist trained in the proper removal of dental amalgams. This procedure is known as the Huggins Protocol and is based on the pioneering work of my friend Hal Huggins, DDS, a leading figure in the world of biological, or holistic, dentistry.
If you need assistance in locating a dentist trained in the Huggins Protocol, please fell free to contact me and I will do my best to help you find one.
Next time, I will tell you about other dental risk factors that can contribute to cancer.
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