Mercury Safety Is Different from Amalgam Safety

Mercury safety: Amalgam issues divide dentistsMercury safe dentistry seems like a good idea for everyone, so I wasn’t expecting so much controversy from Dr. Tom McGuire’s article on the topic (read the article). Though dentists have lots to say about the consumer safety of amalgam fillings, that’s not what we’re talking about here.

We’re just talking about protecting dentists, staff and patients from mercury exposure during amalgam removals. Doesn’t that seem like something everyone can agree is important, regardless of whether one is pro-or anti-amalgam?

I’d like to address some of the points readers raised about Dr. McGuire’s article.

Since when is anyone who wants to promote his moneymaking ‘seminar’ considered to be ‘a leading authority?’On what grounds?Is he an established professor at an accredited dental school? In which department? Sheesh, if I call myself an ‘expert toxicologist’ six times before lunch, does that make me one?”
– Bill C., DDS

I think it’s safe to call someone “a leading authority” when they’re authored multiple books on the subject and founded a professional association, like Tom McGuire, DDS, founder of the International Association of Mercury Free & Mercury Safe Dentists (IAMFD).

I understand you may disagree with some of Dr. McGuire’s opinions. But the fact of the matter is, he’s a heavy-hitter in amalgam debate.

As for his seminars…

“Since all of the uproar about Dr. McGuire’s article I decided to visit the seminar website. I didn’t see anything about arguing that amalgams are a health hazard. All I got was that dentistry is a high risk occupation because of mercury and that it would be prudent, for many reasons, to deal with the occupational exposure to it. I really don’t see this about being pro or anti-amalgam and I still think everyone is entitled to his/her opinion about that topic. What I read was that it is about being anti-mercury and finding out what you can do to protect yourself. After looking at the website I’m going to attend his seminar, and it is a 2 hour flight for me.”
– Bob B., DDS

Where Bill sees a chance to lose money, Bob sees a chance to gain important education. Either choice is fine. The Wealthy Dentist isn’t endorsing Dr. McGuire’s views, just giving him a chance to share his knowledge.

Odd how the studies seem to prove whatever it is you want them to show.
– Dr. Gary Hochstetler

An excellent point. When both sides of the consumer amalgam debate claim the science is clearly on their side, it’s hard to know who to believe.

That’s why we’re trying to move the debate away from if having amalgam fillings is safe and towards how much mercury exposure dental health professionals face.

1 Dentist in 4 Would Ban Silver Fillings

3 out of 4 dentists would not ban dental amalgamOnly one dentist in four would support a ban on silver fillings made of dental amalgam.

Past surveys have consistently shown dentists split on the topic of amalgam, as about half of dentists place amalgam fillings. But in this survey, 74% of dentists said that dentists should be able to make their own choices about restorative materials.

“I’ve personally not used it for 30 years,” said one dentist, “but I would guard the right of others to use it when indicated by their ethics and philosophy.”

Here are some further dentist comments:

  • “All studies demonstrate amalgam is safe and very effective.” (California dentist)
  • “Composites are not without their own toxic byproducts.” (General dentist)
  • “Once the ‘Old Guard’ passes, retires or fades away, there will be no more dental amalgam.” (General dentist)
  • “I just travelled to Haiti to do volunteer work in a make shift mission. In the end, the amalgam was the best material of choice… Each dentist must be given the option of selecting the material of choice for the conditions in which they are required.” (General dentist)
  • “It’s time to move on. Hopefully the options will get even better.” (New York dentist)
  • “Most dentists cannot do a decent proximal contacted composite. I would much rather have a mediocre amalgam than an almost perfect composite.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “If amalgam was safe, OSHA would not require its disposal in hazardous waste.” (California dentist)
  • “I could not, would not be able to serve the IDD (intellectually and developmentally disabled) population well if I was not given the choice of amalgam.” (Developmental Dentist)
  • “I personally use amalgam probably less than 5% of the time, but at least I have that choice. Who would enforce this ban? The Government?? Let the dentist decide!!” (Florida dentist)
  • “It works well, is very forgiving, seals its own margins. It is not the universal restorative material, but neither is anything else, including resin. Dentists should have the skill, knowledge and option to use a variety of materials.” (Indiana dentist)
  • “If this were a new material applying for FDA approval, how long would the process take? How hard would the FDA laugh before saying ‘NEXT!’?” (Texas dentist)
  • “Unless evidence exists – which it does not – a ban is totalitarian. What’s next – McDonalds? Pizza? Meat?” (Orthodontist)
  • “You can’t do repairs under dental crowns with anything other than amalgam.” (General dentist)
  • “I wouldn’t use it on myself or my family. So I haven’t used it on my patients in 17 years.” (Texas dentist)
  • “Amalgam works fine. Never seen a negative effect of amalgam use.” (Prosthodontist)

Read more: Dentists Not in Favor of Banning Dental Amalgam

FDA Finally Takes a Stand on Mercury… Sort Of

Agency Promises to Make a Decision Next Year

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long avoided taking a public stand on the safety or danger of mercury in silver dental fillings. However, with a recent settlement in a lawsuit brought by the organization Moms Against Mercury, the governmental health agency has finally agreed to take a stand on the issue. Eventually.

The agreement calls for the FDA to complete its reclassification of dental amalgam by July of 2009. (The agency began that process in 2002.)

Some news articles have heralded this as a major change in the FDA’s attitude toward amalgam, with headlines making grand proclamations about a new post-amalgam era.

Can you guess which of the following is not a genuine headline?

These are attention-grabbing headlines, to be sure! The problem is, they’re not necessarily true per se. (And okay, I made the last one up.)

In the ADA’s response to news of the decision, the dental organization disputes these suggestions. “As far as the ADA is aware, the FDA has in no way changed its approach to, or position on, dental amalgam,” reads the statement.

As part of the agreement, the FDA has updated the consumer information provided by its website on the subject of mercury and dental amalgam.

“Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses. When amalgam fillings are placed in teeth or removed from teeth, they release mercury vapor. Mercury vapor is also released during chewing. FDA’s rulemaking will examine evidence concerning whether release of mercury vapor can cause health problems, including neurological disorders, in children and fetuses.”
Questions and Answers on Dental Amalgam (FDA Consumer Information)

What do you think? Is this a new era, or just more of the same?

Dentists Passionately Love and Hate Dental Amalgam (Video)

Dentists have used dental amalgam to make metal fillings for a long time, but the material is more controversial now than ever before.

Some worry the silver/mercury alloy may cause health problems, while others think it’s still superior to tooth-colored composite fillings.

Read more: Silver Mercury Fillings Are Amazing… Or Else They’re Terrible

Dentists Split Over Amalgam Fillings (VIDEO)

Amalgam dental fillingsDentists are deeply divided over the issue of mercury in amalgam fillings. In this survey, 52% of dentists reported they are no longer using amalgam. The other 48% are still placing amalgam fillings.

Some dentists criticized amalgam for its possible toxicity and tendency to fracture teeth; other dentists defended amalgam’s long history and superiority to more modern composite fillings.

Read more: Dentists’ Thoughts on Amalgam Fillings

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