How Bad Are Amalgam Fillings?

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How bad are amalgam fillings
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » How Bad Are Amalgam Fillings?

You probably already know that oral health is one of my passions. I’ve had several dentists on the podcast to discuss common dental health questions, and one reoccurring topic is how to prevent tooth decay and cavities. What’s the big deal about cavities and amalgam fillings? Well, besides the pain, expense, and annoyance of getting a filling, there’s also what’s in the filling to consider (hint: it isn’t good). 

What Are Amalgam Fillings?

Dental amalgam is a tooth-filling material made with about 50% mercury (the other 50% is a tin, copper, and silver alloy). Many of us have these silver fillings in our teeth, as this material has been used for years in the dental world.

How Bad Are Amalgam Fillings Anyway?

Amalgam fillings are very common but are, unfortunately, also very toxic. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Mercury

Amalgam fillings contain mercury, an incredibly toxic substance to the human body. Mercury is a known neurotoxin and also a reproductive toxin. Studies link mercury levels in the body to inflammatory disease.

Mercury is released into the body when:

  • the dentist places or removes the amalgam in the tooth
  • you chew food or gum
  • you brush your teeth
  • you grind your teeth

In 2009, the FDA reviewed scientific evidence surrounding amalgam fillings. It reclassified mercury from a class I risk (least risk) to a class II risk (more risk). It also classified amalgam fillings as a class II risk. The FDA wrote in their guidance document:

“(D)ental amalgam also releases low levels of mercury vapor, a chemical that at high exposure levels is well-documented to cause neurological and renal adverse health effects. Mercury vapor concentrations are highest immediately after placement and removal of dental amalgam but decline thereafter.”

Strangely enough, the FDA still considered amalgam fillings to be safe for people over six years old. Here’s a history of new regulations over the past decade:

  • In 2011, the World Health Organization called for a phasing out of amalgam fillings.
  • In 2011, the public challenged the FDA to follow suit and protect the public from amalgam fillings.
  • In 2013, an international treaty passed the United Nations Minamata Convention on Mercury. This treaty required countries to phrase out many mercury-containing products, including thermometers. It also calls for an end to all mercury mining within 15 years. In May 2017, they reached the 50 ratification milestone (at least 50 countries agreed to sign the treaty), and the phasing out of mercury could begin. Though the U.S. government has agreed to this treaty, we haven’t seen much done yet.

Then in 2016, researchers found (in a study performed in 2003-2004) that people with more than eight dental fillings had 2.4 times the amount of mercury in their blood as those who had no fillings. A later group (in a study performed in 2011-2012) found a similar association, but the amount was slightly less, probably because more of these fillings were composite (non-mercury fillings). The amount of mercury in this study was below what the EPA considers safe (.002 mg/L). 

One of the researchers mentioned this was only an average, which means some people had levels higher than the EPA’s limit. If you add in other environmental sources of mercury (like fish consumption, vaccines, etc.), some people can easily have a dangerous level of mercury in their bodies.

This study also found increases in the more dangerous form of mercury—methylmercury—which is known to be dangerous at much lower levels.

The American Dental Association (ADA) responded to the research by releasing a statement reaffirming its position that “dental amalgam is a safe, durable, and effective cavity-filling option.” They went on to say that no conclusions should be drawn about safety from this study.

Bottom Line: Mercury is a known toxin, and amalgam fillings release some mercury into the body. When we have plenty of alternatives to amalgams, there’s just no reason to continue using them.

Tooth Damage

The material in the filling expands and contracts due to temperature changes, which can cause cracking and breaking in the tooth. Placing the amalgam filling also requires dentists to remove a lot of the healthy parts of the teeth. This removal weakens the tooth and makes it more susceptible to breaking and cracking (and more dental procedures in the future). Composite fillings require less of the healthy parts of the tooth to be removed.

Environmental Issues 

Mercury pollution is also a problem. Dental mercury enters the environment by:

  • Air – cremation smoke, sewage sludge, waste incineration, and dentist clinic emissions 
  • Water – human waste disposal and dental clinics 
  • Land – landfills, burials, and fertilizers

After mercury enters the environment, microorganisms turn elemental mercury into methylmercury, which builds up in fish, shellfish, and people who eat mercury-containing fish. Methylmercury can cause damage to children’s and fetuses’ developing brains and nervous systems.

The mercury in fillings not only affects the person with the fillings but everyone else too (especially people who eat fish).

Signs of Mercury Toxicity

The amount of mercury in the body isn’t a direct representation of whether mercury is being harmful. Studies show that the body reacts to mercury by releasing pro-inflammatory immune cells, which means mercury in the body can increase the risk for infectious or autoimmune diseases.

Inflammation can also make the body more susceptible to mercury toxicity. According to Amy Nett in a guest post on Chris Kresser:

“In one study, inflammation due to different causes, including exposure to bacterial endotoxin, which occurs with food poisoning or other GI infection, significantly increased toxicity. Another study similarly found that small amounts of bacterial endotoxin exposure substantially increased susceptibility to damage from various toxins, including metals. And another study in mice demonstrated that mercury in the presence of bacterial endotoxin caused measurably more kidney damage than mercury alone. This means that the same amount of mercury or other toxins will cause more damage in the presence of inflammation.”

Therefore, the way mercury toxicity plays out in a body is very individual. However, here are some general symptoms that can indicate mercury toxicity:

  • Anxiety or depression 
  • Brain fog, decreased concentration, memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent headaches
  • Lack of motor skills/feeling uncoordinated
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Allergies 
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity
  • Nerve damage (phantom pain or sensations)
  • Hearing loss
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Muscle tremors
  • Hair loss 
  • Hormonal dysregulation, including abnormal menstrual cycles and infertility
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Kidney dysfunction 

In children:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Delayed or impaired motor skills
  • Difficulties learning to speak
  • Issues with hand-eye coordination

Many of these symptoms could indicate other illnesses or causes, so it’s essential to work with a knowledgeable naturopath or functional medicine doctor to determine what’s causing your or your child’s symptoms.

A hair mineral analysis test can reveal what metals are in excess in your body.

More testing may be needed, as a hair mineral test may not be enough, which is why a knowledgeable doctor is so important!

Alternatives to Amalgam Fillings

I mentioned earlier that there are no good reasons to continue using amalgam fillings since many good alternatives exist. Here are some of the best and safest alternatives to mercury fillings.

Composite Resin

Composite resin fillings are made out of a type of plastic (an acrylic resin) reinforced with powdered glass filler that is white and matches the tooth. Composite fillings contain BPA, but studies have found no correlation between the number of fillings and levels of BPA in the blood (suggesting that composite fillings don’t release BPA the way amalgam fillings release mercury). Ideally, it would be best to avoid either, but composite is a better choice between the two (amalgam or composite). Composite fillings are also long-lasting.

Remineralizing Cavities Naturally

As Dr. Weston A. Price (a dentist) found and detailed in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, some cultures throughout the world had perfect teeth despite no access to dentists or modern toothpaste. On the other hand, similar cultures with different diets had very high rates of tooth decay.

He (and others) eventually uncovered that diet is the main factor in tooth structure and health. Yes, that means diet even affects whether a child needs braces!

There are three main parts to a diet that helps strengthen teeth (versus one that causes cavities):

  1. Enough dietary minerals
  2. Enough dietary fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
  3. Bioavailability of these nutrients and if a person can absorb them

When I changed my diet to improve my oral health, I actually remineralized some cavities!

What to Do If You Already Have Amalgam Fillings

If you already have some amalgam fillings and want to get them removed, it’s not as simple as going to your regular dentist. The removal of amalgam fillings can release a lot of mercury into the body, and many dentists don’t know how to remove amalgam fillings safely. A holistic dentist (also called a biological dentist) can remove amalgam fillings safely. You can find one near you:

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Tim Jackson. He is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Orthopedic Rehabilitation, and a Functional Medicine provider. He holds a B.S. Degree in Health Science and Chemistry from Wake Forest University. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Have you had an amalgam filling removed? How did it go?

Sources
  1. Gump, B. B., et al. (2011, October 24). Fish consumption, low-level mercury, lipids, and inflammatory markers in children. Environmental Research. 
  2. Center for Devices and Radiological Health. (n.d.). Appendix I : Summary of changes to the classification of Dental Amalgam. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  3. World Health Organization, Petersen, Poul Erik, Baez, Ramon, Kwan, Stella & Ogawa, Hiroshi. (?2010)?. Future use of materials for dental restoration: report of the meeting convened at WHO HQ, Geneva, Switzerland 16th to 17th November 2009. World Health Organization.
  4. International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. (2018, June 30). Public demands FDA take immediate action on Mercury fillings
  5. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Minamata Convention on Mercury. EPA. 
  6. MacMillan, A. (2016, October 4). How dental fillings can impact mercury levels on your blood. Time. 
  7. Novo, J. P., et al. (2021). Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms Mediating Methylmercury Neurotoxicity and Neuroinflammation. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(6), 3101. 
  8. What is dental amalgam? (n.d.). ToxicTeeth.org.
  9. Gardner, R. M., et al. (2009, December). Mercury induces an unopposed inflammatory response in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro. Environmental health perspectives. 
  10. Nett, A. (2015, August 11). Mercury toxicity – is it the cause for your symptoms. Chris Kresser. 
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

6 responses to “How Bad Are Amalgam Fillings?”

  1. Nicole Shear Avatar
    Nicole Shear

    I had my mercury fillings removed in 2021, got pregnant at the end of 2021, and lost my son to stillbirth in August 2022.

    I think I had mercury poisoning from both having them and getting them removed.

    I’m currently doing the Andy Cutler Method of low dose ALA & DMSA on their half life (every three hours) for 3 days and 2 nights, and it has helped with a ton of my symptoms. I also take zeolite in several forms. It all seems to be helping. I hope it is enough to bring our next baby safely into this world, as losing Ari was absolutely crushing.

  2. Lisa Augustine Avatar
    Lisa Augustine

    Around 2007, I had all 8 mercury fillings removed from my mouth by a regular dentist. I didnt have this done all at once- but throughout the Spring and Summer.. two fillings at a time. Before each removal, I took 2000 mg of Vitamin C two days before and two days after. I used Algin supplements also… which absorbs methyl mercury that ends up in the body from the drilling process and allows it to be eliminated in the urine and bowel movements -but doesn’t drag it around various organs. I also kept regularly doing periodic liver flushes (Dr. Hulda Clark) as well as colon cleanses (Psyllum Husk and plenty of fluids) throughout this process.
    The book, “It’s All in Your Head” written by a dentist who took mercury in amalgam fillings very seriously, mentioned one must not forgo lean meat when getting the metal fillings removed and detoxing. This dentist found that those on vegetarian diets suffered more from the mercury removal than those who ate lean meats in their diets.. so I made sure to have fish, turkey , breast of chicken and the occasional red meat.

    I also ate raw apples and celery.
    After my last metal fillings were finally totally replaced, I began using Chlorella along with Algin. Chlorella can really drag around any mercury in the body and needs to be taken with Algin so as to sponge up any excess and allow the body to neatly deposit it out through the bowel and kidneys. I kept up with this routine for months afterwards, as according to this dentist, the body can retain mercury for a time after total amalgam removal and then dump it into your organs later- so you need to keep up with the mercury detox probably for one year afterwards. I found the 2000 mg of Vitamin C very helpful!

    After my last amalgam replacement, I noticed I no longer stuttered as I had for years…. something that had been a handicap for me since highschool. Also, my eyelids no longer “twitched”, and food no longer had a metallic taste .. my vertigo spells also stopped.. and that had been something I took for granted as “normal” throughout my entire life up until then. I am grateful that I had gotten this done along with the detoxes.. I couldn’t afford to go to a holistic dentist, so I had gone to a mainstream restorative dentist.., who agreed to use a rubber “dam” in my mouth during filling removal.

  3. Judy G Avatar

    I had an amalgam filling removed by my regular dentist some years ago. While the actual removal wasn’t a pleasant experience, I haven’t had any adverse symptoms that I was aware of. Though at the time. I didn’t know to watch for any. In the long run I’m glad I had it done. No worries now.

  4. Gabrielle Avatar
    Gabrielle

    Yes I have had 2 amalgam fillings removed. The first one was by a regular dentist which was a big mistake. I have been fighting for my life with mercury poisoning for the last year and a half as a result. I have been to many dentists and doctors with good intentions but they have set me back terribly. There is one way to remove mercury safely and it isn’t chorella or cilantro or iv chelation. Those ways can kill you or make you way worse. Chorella specifically can make someone with amalgam in their mouth or system very sick.

  5. Angela Dennis Avatar
    Angela Dennis

    Every child should have their fissures sealed as each posterior permanent tooth erupts. This would prevent the need for a massive amount dental care related to decay, including the need for fillings.
    The general public seem completely unaware of this preventative procedure or it’s value to their children’s future oral health.

  6. Julija Avatar

    I had an amalgam filling removed recently. I am having issues with my gum in that area. I wonder if it’s related.

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