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Mercury - can you trust your dentist?

Jean Shaw© - All Rights reserved

My grandmother is 92 years old and has a fantastic memory. She cooks herself a meal every day - meat and fresh vegetables. Rarely, if ever, does she have prepacked processed food. She also has false teeth.

I wish I had false teeth.

In my grandmother's day people didn't have fillings if they had toothache. Instead their teeth were extracted - usually at home and yes, they did tie a piece of string to the door knob. For their twenty first birthday those whose family could afford it were given a set (or two) of false teeth.

I wish I'd had false teeth for my 21st birthday.

I make that statement because I am one of the 3% of the population which the British Dental Authority admit to suffering mercury sensitivity. And if you are wondering what that has to do with teeth it's because dental amalgam contains 50% mercury.

It is the second most toxic substance on the planet and the only metal that evapourates at room temperature so why was it put in my mouth?

The remaining 50% incidentally comprises a mixture of silver, tin, copper and zinc.

Amalgam has been used for dental amalgam fillings since the early 1800's and even then there were doubts as to its safety. The Amalgam Wars in USA resulted in a resolution being passed in 1845 pronouncing the use of amalgam as "malpractice".

Originally amalgam was made out of a paste of filings from silver coins and mercury. The problem was that the impurities in the coins made it expand and crack the teeth. Hence the new mixture.

You may not know anything about science but when various metals get put together they can react in different ways. Metals corrode especially when they are exposed to moisture and for some strange reason these toxic ones are put in our mouths.

Mercury is incredibly dangerous. The Egyptians used it to repel tomb raiders and warnings are always given not to breathe it in or ingest it. It used to be used in the hat making process and many people went mad. Mercury toxicity is often referred to as Mad Hatter's Disease.

Remember the crazy hare character in Alice in Wonderland?

Mercury is used in fillings because it is incredibly durable, easy to place and cheap. As it was used long before there were any safety regulatory bodies people just assumed it was safe and even now most dentists hold that view.

However, mercury is dangerous. It is toxic and even dentists have to use it with care. In the 1980's dentists were given 15 recommendations of mercury hygiene for their protection.

These included

• working in a well-ventilated area,

• avoiding heating mercury or amalgam,

• using a no-touch technique for handling amalgam,

• storing mercury in unbreakable, tightly sealed containers,

• alerting all personnel of the potential hazard of mercury vapour

• getting anyone regularly employed in a dentist office to have an annual mercury

  check up.

Seemingly the scrap amalgam (the bit left over after the filling is placed) was considered dangerous and yet the exact same amalgam placed in the mouth was okay. Doesn't that seem strange to you?

Dentists who've always been taught otherwise deny amalgam can be dangerous and yet as a "precautionary measure" they no longer use it on children, pregnant women or nursing mothers. You see mercury vapour gets into the bloodstream and can pass into the foetus through the umbilical chord and also via a mother's milk.

It builds up over a period of time and compromises the immune system and as it is not contagious it doesn't have to be reported.

It is therefore difficult to assess just how many people are affected. Often it is misdiagnosed as the symptoms are vague and could be attributed to many different things. It is also very difficult to test for.

Until recently doctors dismissed mercury poisoning caused by dental amalgam as nonsense but thankfully there is now more awareness. If you display an increasing amount of inexplicable symptoms you may even find your doctor asking if you've had any recent dental work.

If you do discover you have mercury toxicity please have your fillings removed SAFELY. Removing amalgam can be very dangerous and make you even more ill. If your body is full of mercury the last thing you want is another dose of vapour when the amalgam is disturbed.

As I said, I wish I'd had false teeth on my 21st birthday.

Jean Shaw is the author of I'm Not Naughty - I'm Autistic - Jodi's Journey and Autism, Amalgam and Me - Jodi's Journey Continues. Details of her books and mercury poisoning helplines can be found at