This FDA statement came about as a result of lawsuits brought by concerned consumers. But this newsletter isn’t so much about the mercury issue which I think is totally indefensible, my concerns are about appropriate alternatives when it comes to dental filling materials.
The most common alternatives to mercury amalgam fillings are: gold, porcelain and composite fillings.
Amalgam fillings are typically fifty percent mercury. Additional amalgam metals include: silver, zinc, tin and copper. Aside from the mercury issues, amalgam type fillings require more excavation of the healthy tooth then other fillers. Amalgam is more susceptible to expansion and contraction than other fillers when exposed to hot and cold, leading to a higher degree of cracks and fissures. They typically last an average of 15-20 years.
Gold is durable, lasts at least 20 years or longer, doesn’t corrode, is very safe and has virtually no side effects. There are rare reports of an electric sensation that may occur if gold abuts a mercury filling, however this is something the dentist can easily correct.
Made of porcelain, these fillings last more than 20 years, cost less than gold, and like gold are very safe and without side effects. Composite fillings made with glass or porcelain in a matrix are not true porcelain fillings.
Composite fillings are popular because they can be matched to the color of the existing tooth. They chemically bond to the healthy tooth which provides more stability than amalgams, but only last 8-10 years. Composite fillings have a resin base, and may have glass and glass ceramic (porcelain) fillers. Acrylate, aluminum, formaldehyde, hexane, hydroquinone, phenol, polyurethane, silane, strontium, toluene and xylene are some of the chemicals used to make composite fillings.
Initially it was thought that composites were safer then mercury amalgam fillings. However this may not be the case. According to a study published in the August 2012 Journal of Pediatrics, children who receive composite resin fillings that contain bisphenol A-glycidyl methacrylate (bisGMA) may incur neuralgic damage manifesting with more emotional and social problems than children with other types of restorations. These types of composite filings are the most common. Amazingly, this study concluded that even though the retrospective analysis of a landmark trial showed that composite resin fillings may cause significant psychosocial problems in children; dentists should keep using them. For more on plastic concerns including the negative effects for both children and adults, see my website newsletter; Plastic Toxins.
At issue here is the toxic nature of materials used to make fillings. Some are toxic in and of themselves, while others can pose a health issue if the person is or becomes sensitive to them. There are two labs that claim to be able to test for biocompatibility of composite materials before the filling is placed. This test for sensitivity would be very helpful; however, in my experience these tests are expensive and unreliable.
My advice is to avoid mercury amalgam fillings. Choose gold or porcelain over other materials. If a composite is used, inquire regarding the ingredients and steer clear of any composite fillings that contain plastic bisphenol-A/bisGMA. Choose a seasoned biocompatible dentist for removal of old amalgam fillings. Follow the advice in my newsletter Toxins, beginning at least one week before and for several weeks after the procedure(s), to ensure the removal of any heavy metals that slip past the protective measures of the dentist. The natural heartburn relief supplement Acid Block contains sodium alginate. Sodium alginate has a strong affinity for binding to mercury. Taking this product just before and for several days after amalgam removal would be a good additional strategy to help eliminate any stray mercury released during the procedures.
I hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter. As always, comments and feedback are welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND