Mercury-Free Dentistry Week 2016: If You Have Amalgams…

mercuryIt’s Mercury-Free Dentistry Week, an annual campaign to raise consumer awareness of the problems caused by dentistry’s use of mercury to restore teeth and the possibility of a mercury-free future.

But while mercury is a problem, if you have amalgams, the solution isn’t just to go get the fillings removed. There’s a lot more to it than just that, as Dr. V explains…

The Only Thing that Matters Is Getting the Mercury Out, Right? (Not Quite)

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

We humans are natural pattern-seekers and storytellers. When something happens to us – especially if it’s unexpected or undesired – we instinctively use these traits to help us find the cause and meaning of our experience. As we discover patterns, we build an explanation – a “story” – that satisfies us and that we can believe in.

Perhaps you’ve been having health problems that conventional medicine has been unable to explain. Maybe you’ve even been told that, despite your symptoms, there’s nothing really wrong: “It’s all in your head.” Dissatisfied, you sought a story that made more sense. Your search led you to information about the systemic illnesses that can be caused by dental situations such as the presence of mercury amalgam fillings, root canals and cavitations. And perhaps you suspect that one or more of these is the cause of your persistent health problems. Nothing else has made sense; this does. And so you reasonably, rationally conclude that you should have the disturbances removed.

Before doing anything, though, it must be fully verified that one or more of these situations – the presence of mercury, root canals or cavitations – is the actual cause of your systemic health problems. The conscientious dentist will never assume that just because mercury fillings are present, they are generating illness throughout the body. Close clinical examination and extensive testing are needed. The body’s toxic load must be determined. All possible sources of the toxins must be considered. The extent of toxication and its effects on the biological terrain must be understood.

In short, a thorough diagnosis must be made and the source of illness, pinpointed.

Say you’re driving one day and your engine begins to chirp. You take your car to a mechanic and explain the noise. No doubt, you would be quite upset if the mechanic just went under the hood and replaced the alternator, no questions asked – even if you knew that 9 times out of 10, a faulty alternator is the cause of the sound you heard. You’d be especially upset if, despite this, the engine kept chirping.

In dentistry and medicine, too, it is vital that the actual cause and nature of the problem be fully understood. Only then can a proper solution be determined.

Let’s say that, having run all of the appropriate tests and conducted a thorough examination, your dentist concludes that mercury fillings are indeed the problem. Even then, the careful dentist won’t just start drilling and filling. He or she must be sure that the new restorative material is biocompatible: that it won’t cause a toxic or allergic reaction that can lead to further health problems. If you are sensitive to mercury and a dentist replaces it with a direct composite that contains a substance you’re also sensitive to, you may be somewhat better off than you were, but your immune system remains under siege.

Think again of the car with the chirping engine. Testing has determined that the problem is, in fact, a faulty alternator. But say the mechanic replaces it with an alternator built for a different kind of car – one built for a Chevy truck but not your Mazda sedan. Obviously, you car still wouldn’t run very well. More, it could wind up having many problems beyond the original one.

What you replace with is just as important as the replacement itself. Compatibility tests should always be performed prior to any restorative procedure. IgA mercury saliva and blood serum tests are standard. If you prove especially sensitive to mercury and other materials, electro-dermal testing is also recommended. It can verify and refine the results of the initial tests, helping you and your dentist find the best possible match.

If your systemic illness is due to dental situations, it’s likely that your immune system and biological terrain have been greatly compromised. Your body has probably taken quite a beating from the toxic load. (Remember: with dental materials, there’s no escape from exposure. The offending materials are in your mouth 24-7, 365 days a year.) So also before replacement, measures must be taken to improve and strengthen these systems so they will be able to more efficiently detoxify your body once the offending materials have been removed. Your body is a self-regulating system. It must be prepared for the process of self-healing. While the exact measures to be taken will depend completely upon your unique situation, they commonly include dietary/nutritional changes and adding supplements and homeopathics to your daily nutritional regimen.

Mercury, root canal or cavitation removal is almost always beneficial. However, it is not an instant cure. Detoxification and healing are processes. They require a thorough understanding of the current situation and all possible routes to recovery. Because of the relationship among the dental situation, energetic health and systemic health, all aspects must be considered and treated together. Quick removal largely ignores the systemic issue: only the dental aspect is addressed. Likewise, treating the bodily symptoms without considering the dental or energetic components means that you will be fighting the problem constantly, continually, never addressing the cause. Dealing with illness in an integrative, biological manner is more time-consuming and, in the short term, more expensive. But the final goal must always be to ensure long-term health and wellness – which is always less time consuming and cheaper in the long run.

For a full description of our mercury removal protocol, click here.

Learn more about mercury amalgam “silver” fillings
Learn more about the biological terrain & its impact on health/illness

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BPA, Dental Sealants, & Some Twisty Logic

It’s time for another round of Follow the Logic.

Last week, the ADA proclaimed that “BPA in dental sealants [is] safe.” The evidence? Research just published in the ADA Professional Product Review, which tested BPA release from 12 sealants used by dentists in the US.

The analysis indicated that the BPA release from dental sealants is very low — .09 nanograms. This amount is well below the limit proposed for a 6-year-old child (who weighs about 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1 million nanograms per day) and the European Food Safety Authority (80,000 nanograms per day).

That hypothetical child, said the ADA, “is exposed to more BPA from food; drinks; sunscreen, shampoo, body wash and other cosmetics; and air and thermal paper (such as cash register receipts) than from the amount that is in dental sealants.”

sealant on a toothSuffice it to say, it takes a mighty big leap to get from this to concluding that BPA from sealants is therefore safe.

It’s like saying, “Sure, some mercury vapor is released from amalgam fillings, but it’s a lot less than what you’d get from eating tuna; therefore, amalgam is safe.”

It just doesn’t follow.

It does confirm that BPA from sealants just adds to a child’s overall daily exposure to the chemical, even if by a fairly small amount. So if you’re opting for sealants, why not go with a BPA-free material instead? They are available, after all.

Meantime, the question remains: Is BPA safe? Scientists continue to explore its effects on the human body, as well as our environment, but the research to date suggests that it’s wise to limit exposure to this chemical (and other endocrine dirsruptors).

“There’s too much data consistent across studies…time and time again…to ignore it and suggest BPA has no effect on humans,” says Gail Prins, a physiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Root Canals, Implants & Their Implication in Disease

A presentation by late, great Dr. Hal Huggins for the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation:

For more on this topic, check out our resource page “What You Need to Know About Root Canals and Dental Implants.” For more videos like this, browse our library of recommended videos.

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GMOs: The Labels We May Be Getting vs. the Labels We Say We Want

blurry grocery aisleSpeaking of food, health, and surveys, a new survey on GMOs came out this past week, right on the heels of Congress passing what’s been called a “non-labeling GMO labeling bill” and “DARK Act 2.0.”.

President Barack Obama is poised to sign the so-called DARK Act, a GMO labeling bill critics say notches a win for the food and biotech industries but will still leave consumers in the dark about whether or not their food contains genetically modified ingredients.

And that’s precisely what consumers don’t want (to be left in the dark), as the new survey – part of the Annenberg Science Knowledge survey project – confirms. As the Washington Post reported,

Altogether, 88 percent of participants said they thought products containing GMOs should be labeled, and 91 percent said they thought people had a right to know if they were buying or eating products containing GMOs. This is in keeping with multiple surveys conducted by other organizations that have indicated wide support for GMO labeling.

Unfortunately, the bill on Obama’s desk wouldn’t completely answer this desire. The labeling is far from straightforward. Companies could opt for “disclosing” GMO info through a QR code, for instance. And as for all those who don’t have or choose not to use smartphones?

Tough luck seems to be the answer.

The survey also found that most people (58%) admit to having a limited understanding of GMOs even as about half disagreed with the statement that “scientists have not found any risks to human health from eating genetically modified foods.” But where the Post suggests this reflects consumer ignorance, there are, in fact, documented risks to both human and environmental health, and plenty of safety questions remain.

But this is a different matter from labeling. Labeling is about delivering information clearly so consumers can make informed choices. So long as we’ve entrusted (or given up) the provision of food to others – whether small, community-supported farms or mega-corporations – we deserve to know as much as we can about how that food was made. Whether we act on that information or not, buy or not, is another story.

But we can’t make decisions without accessible information. We know that and we value that.

It’s similar with dentistry. Patients, as consumers, ultimately make their own choices based on a wide variety of factors. They may default to getting the amalgam fillings that their insurance will pay for, for instance, but they still deserve to know in advance what’s in those fillings (50% mercury, a known neurotoxin) and the possible consequences of having them placed.

Without disclosure and knowledge, there can be no informed consent.

Image by Consumerist Dot Com, via Flickr

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On “Healthy” Food

shopping cart filled with produceThere was an interesting read in the New York Times last week on beliefs about “healthy” foods, based on a survey inspired by the FDA’s reconsideration of what kinds of foods can be called “healthy.” (Earlier this year, the agency also invited public comments on showed the use of the term “natural” on food labels. The comment period is closed now, but you can view the comments here.)

And it’s about time they do. It’s been more than 20 years since they last looked at those rules. And as ThinkProgress reported back in May,

Under the FDA’s current rule, food can only be labeled as healthy if it’s below a certain threshold in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Meanwhile, any regulation on sugar content is conspicuously absent. Although excess added sugar is now blamed as a contributor to major health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, that wasn’t much of a concern in the 1980s and 1990s.

In practice, that means that breakfast foods like Pop-Tarts and cereals, which are heavily processed and high in sugar — but also fortified with added nutrients — have an easier time passing the threshold as “healthy” than a one-ingredient, high-fat food like salmon filet.

So the Times surveyed consumers and nutritionists to get an idea of what they think “healthy” means. There were the usual discrepancies, to be sure – consumers think granola bars and frozen yogurt are a lot more healthy than nutritionists do – as well as the usual undecidedness on foods such as butter, cheese, and whole milk. Still, it’s kind of interesting to see how ideas come together and diverge on what kind of nutrition folks think our bodies need.

Yet to get caught up in the debate between “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods kind of misses the point.

After all, it’s the whole diet that matters. And food is just one factor that affects health. To reduce matters to “eat this and you’ll be healthy” or “avoid that and you’ll be healthy” is a major oversimplification.

But more, the foods that most often come with health claims slapped on them are not whole foods but food products. At best, they may be whole foods fortified or otherwise manipulated in some way as to merit some kind of health claim. At worst, they’re things like Pop-Tarts – engineered, fabricated products made with food derivatives and synthetic chemicals that our bodies were never designed to consume.

We don’t need products. We need food. Real food. That’s the foundation of a healthful diet, however else it might be configured.

Real food doesn’t need labels.

Of course, all of us turn to products from time to time. Some common foods take more time to make than we can give in the modern world – foods like bread or cheese. Sometimes, it’s just easier to rely on a product to impart extra flavor, say, or speed up preparation. That’s fine.

But if you’re eating for healthfulness, real food, not product, makes up the bulk of your diet.

Image by, via Flickr

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Why Are Root Canal Teeth Toxic?

Thomas Levy explains…

To learn more about the systemic risks of root canal therapy and what to do about existing root canal teeth in your mouth, see our guide.

And for more videos on root canals and other oral barriers to optimal health, browse our newly updated video library.

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Peroxide + Mercury Amalgam? Not a Great Mix

mercury amalgam fillingAs long as we’re in this mode of updating past posts, we thought to take a look at the continuing research on how tooth bleaching may affect mercury amalgam fillings.

For there’s good reason for extra concern.

The most recent study, like many that came before, involved exposing amalgam samples to either peroxide or a neutral fluid and measuring mercury release. In this case, two types of amalgam disks were used for testing, one with a much higher silver content than the other. Both were exposed to the peroxide or control fluid for 48 hours. The amount of mercury dissolved in each test tube was then measured.

The results? Peroxide stimulated more mercury release. And the less silver, the more mercury released.

This is in line with the research we told you about before, as well as later research, such as the 2013 General Dentistry study, which showed that “exposing amalgam alloys to bleaching agents released greater amounts of [mercury] compared to exposing samples to deionized water.”

That said, there are some studies that have found no significant change in mercury release, but as a 2015 literature review noted, there may be good explanations for the discrepancies. For instance,

This controversy might be related to the variation in peroxide concentration and time period of application. An alternative hypothesis is that there is a positive correlation between the mercury release and peroxide concentration and the increased release of mercury is attribute to the age of the dental amalgam, the surface roughness of the amalgam surface and the acidity of the bleaching agent.

Of course, it helps when the research is sound. It isn’t always.

For instance, a 2014 study in the Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry concluded that

Bleaching treatments either office or home did not affect the amount of mercury released from amalgam fillings in blood, urine, and saliva and the antioxidant-enzyme activities in blood.

There are a number of problems with this study, however.

For one, it was a very small study with no control group.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that this is a one-time exposure, whereas folks who bleach tend to do so repeatedly in order to retain the degree of whiteness that made them turn to bleaching in the first place. We’re aware of no studies that show the potential effects of mercury release under repeated exposures over longer periods of time.

But we might also question whether mercury levels in blood, urine, or saliva are actually the best measure in this case.

tooth anatomyResearching caries (tooth decay) susceptibility and resistance back in the 1960s, Dr. Ralph Steinman of Loma Linda University found that peroxide appeared to reverse the flow of fluid through the miles of microscopic tubules that make up the middle layer of your teeth, the dentin. Normally, this fluid flows outward, repelling microbes and other threats to the health of the tooth. When the flow is reversed, these threats are pulled into the tooth. (You can read more about Steinman’s research here.)

So if Steinman’s work is correct, why would we be amazed that mercury isn’t released into saliva, blood, or urine? The mercury would be in the dentinal tubules.

And the dentinal odontoblasts – specialized cells that form new dentin and which extend into the pulp – would be bathed in mercury.

Suffice it to say, this is not a good situation to put your teeth in, considering the neurotoxic effects of mercury and the very short distance between your teeth and brain.

It is good reason to steer clear of peroxide if you still have amalgam fillings.

Tooth anatomy image by BruceBlaus, via Wikimedia Commons

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