Dentists at Odds Over
by Alan Gung
Your health may be in danger if you have dental fillings and you might not
realize it. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown along with dentists,
physicians, and consumer and environmental experts want the public to know about
the health risks of toxic mercury in “silver” dental fillings used for treating
They along with
the Pennsylvania Coalition for Mercury-Free Dentistry held a press conference at
City Hall to expose the truth about silver dental fillings.
Most consumers aren’t aware their
fillings might have mercury, which is the primary source of mercury exposure for
the general public, according to the National Academy of Natural Sciences’ 2000
Approximately, 175,000 U.S. dentists place 100 million amalgam fillings in
patients’ teeth each year. According to Charles Brown of the National Counsel
for Consumers for Dental Choice, the American Dental Association (ADA) said the
ADA misleads the public by promoting the amalgams as “silver” fillings rather
than explaining to consumers the fillings consist of mercury and insisting the
fillings are harmless.
Silver amalgam fillings consist
of 50 percent mercury—twice the amount of silver. Mercury’s considered to be
more toxic than lead, cadmium, or arsenic. If exposed, it could cause
neurological harm, kidney damage, and damage to the immune system as well as
many other health risks such as reproductive, neurological and autoimmune
disorders, birth defects, childhood learning disabilities and autism.
Mercury is also linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and various types
the ADA to end its “gag rule” of keeping consumers uninformed.
“One of the reasons I’m here today is to challenge the gag rule. The ADA does
not want you to know about the mercury in the dental fillings. They instruct
their dentists not to tell you. There’s a notorious ‘gag rule’ that the ADA
says, ‘We want our dentists, to keep their mouths shut and don’t say the ‘M’
Frederick Burton, a physician specializing in alternative internal medicine,
added. “The ADA promotes these fillings as silver. I want to call the ADA to end
their gag rule and stop promoting this as silver fillings,” he said.
Freya Koss, founder of the
Pennsylvania Coalition for Mercury-Free Dentistry and a survivor of amalgam
mercury poison, believes the American Dental Association doesn’t want dentists
to inform patients on the potential dangers of amalgam fillings.
“The ADA is deceiving the public. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin- why would
anyone want to have it in their mouth? I am confident that if dentists informed
their patients about the risks and gave them the choice, they’d choose an
alternative like a composite filling. I know I would have. No level of mercury
is safe,” Koss said tearfully.
Dentists are at higher rate of exposure to mercury since they are exposed to it
more, according to Hines.
Not only is this a public health
problem it’s an environmental problem as well.
In fact, amalgam fillings are the primary source of mercury found in the
environment. Mercury from those fillings is released into the environment
through human excretion or waste and dental office disposal, according to
To stop this mercury problem, experts and dentists are urging doctors to use
alternatives like white composite fillings.
Groups most affected by this issue are children, immigrants and low-income
families who can’t afford the higher-costing composite fillings.
“A lot of the poor get sick from these fillings because insurance tends to not
cover this at all or much less than the composite fillings,” Sara Moore-Hines, a
survivor of amalgam mercury poisoning, explained.
She noticed a difference since she changed over to the composites.
“We want the public to know alternative white composite fillings are much safer
yet more expensive,” she said. “Since I got my composite fillings my mouth
doesn’t smell and I can’t taste the metal anymore, I’m not sick all the time
This has been a major
concern for Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown since her child had worn
fillings. Brown had never known about this problem until her staff informed her
on this public health issue. She is proposing city legislation requiring
dentists to post and distribute fillings and require dentists to install systems
permitting the recycling of mercury waste.
“I never knew to even ask the question,” she said. “As a result of working on
this issue, my awareness and understanding of the issue has been heightened. I’m
just one mother out of the thousands across the city who may not know to simply
ask the question. In case my child’s fillings were not temporary, as a result of
being involved with this issue, I would know now to tell the dentist I prefer
not to have silver fillings, instead have the alternative composite fillings put
in my child’s mouth.
“Hopefully the intent of the bill
is to make the practice universal where all consumers get the alternative type
of filling and really eliminate the use of silver mercury fillings. With this
bill it will help consumers to make informed choices about dental care.”