Amalgam fillings, or “silver” filings, are composed of a combination of silver, tin, copper, and mercury. The mercury content of amalgam fillings is around 50 percent, which has some dentists and their patients concerned. Mercury is a well-known toxin; the argument hinges on whether or not the mercury in dental fillings is “locked in” to the filling or can leech out into the bloodstream or as a toxic vapor.
Dentists have used amalgam fillings since the mid-1800s for many reasons. They are durable, inexpensive, and resistant to further decay. But they are coming under more intense scrutiny as unexplainable illnesses are being considered as possible reactions to mercury poisoning.
Here are some of the disorders and illnesses that have been attributed (directly or indirectly) to mercury poisoning from fillings:
- Numbness and tingling in various places on the body
- Memory loss
- Mood changes, including depression
- Inflammation of the mouth and/or gums
- Persistent metallic taste in the mouth
- Cardiovascular problems, such as irregular heartbeat and pulse
- Intestinal disorders such as colitis
- Auto-immune disorders, such as Lupus and Fibromyalgia
- Skin rashes
- Respiratory problems
Given this long list – and it is only a partial one – it is understandable why people are concerned. It should be noted, however, that there are experts who are skeptical about the role of dental fillings in these afflictions. Skeptics claim that the mercury bonds chemically with the other metals in the filling alloy, making any leeching or out-gassing impossible. A brief look at how mercury acts in the body – regardless of its source – can help clarify some of the confusion.
As noted, mercury is a known toxin. Its effect is primarily on the brain; hence the stereotype of the “Mad Hatter.” (Hat makers in the 1800s were exposed to large amounts of mercury as part of the manufacturing process.) Exposure to mercury in the womb can result in neurological damage to the unborn baby. Adults who are poisoned by mercury exposure experience psychological and neurological problems, including some of the symptoms mentioned above (numbness, tingling, memory loss, etc.). Recent findings suggest cardiovascular effects as well.
Thus, some of the symptoms attributed to amalgam fillings could well be mercury poisoning. The difficulty is in finding out if it is the fillings or some other source (such as contaminated fish) that is causing the poisoning.
There is an alternative available today – composite resin fillings are the choice of most modern dentists. There are dentists who will replace amalgam fillings with resin composite ones if you are concerned about how your metal fillings may affect your health.