Mercury vapor from fillings?

Over the years countless patients have asked me what I thought about the controversy regarding mercury fillings and whether to leave them in or have them removed. There is unfortunately not a simple answer to that question; the reason being that although there is no longer any significant debate about the relative toxicity of the mercury in your mouth there remains questions regarding its safe removal.

You see, mercury vaporizes anytime you physically or thermally disturb it. For example, the simple act of brushing your teeth causes mercury vapor to come off the fillings where it can then enter into your mucous membranes in your mouth or possibly be inhaled into your lungs; either pathway results in mercury getting into your bloodstream. Once in your bloodstream, it can travel virtually anywhere in the body, ultimately settling in one tissue or another.

I'd like to bring your attention to an amazing video by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology that demonstrates the tendency of mercury to vaporize upon being rubbed, as you would when brushing your teeth or upon exposure to increased temperatures, such as when drinking a cup of coffee.

This eight and a half minute video clearly shows mercury vapor coming off a 25-year-old tooth with mercury amalgam fillings from simply being physically disturbed with a pencil eraser or when exposed to warm fluid.

The greatest amount of mercury vapor escapes from the tooth when a dentist uses a drill to remove the fillings, and thus the problem. How can you safely remove mercury from your teeth without re-exposing your body to even greater concentrations of this dangerous metal?

The decision to remove the fillings is best discussed with your health care professional. If you do choose to remove please look for a dentist that offers the following:

  • Keep the fillings cool during the drilling process. By reducing the amount of heat generated during the process, far less mercury vaporizes.
  • Use a high-volume suction device, called an evacuator. This tool will quickly remove mercury as it is being removed from the tooth.
  • Many dentists will also use a cannula to allow you to breathe 100% oxygen. Doing so further minimizes your tendency to inhale vaporized mercury.
  • Use rubber damming. This diminishes absorption of mercury as well.
  • Consider pre-treatment with anti-oxidants such as a high dose Vitamin C and Activated Charcoal. Activated charcoal is particularly good at absorbing inadvertently swallowed mercury particles.

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