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Dental Amalgam Mercury Poisoning

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(See the related article Biological and Mercury Free Dentistry.)

Typically, mercury poisoning involves fatigue and poor digestion. If you are investigating this complex of symptoms, be sure to read this article: Mercury, Gut Wall Infection, and Fatigue, as well as this article on Candida Alibicans yeast infections.

Although technically speaking, dental amalgams are not in the general ken of medicine — but rather dentistry — the problem is so widespread, I would be seriously remiss not to bring it to your attention. The problem of dental amalgams is a specific instance of the general problem of mercury poisoning.

Mercury is a natural element, a toxic heavy metal, which is highly volatile, the vapor form having the ability to kill cells outright rather than merely do damage. Mercury once was used in thermometers, but is no longer used due to toxic concerns. It is also known as "quicksilver." The breakage of a mercury thermometer is a potential, although usually unrecognized, medical emergency. Once exposed to air, pure mercury (quicksilver) vaporizes rapidly. If inhaled it makes its way into the tissues of the body in minutes. A large dose can be lethal.

Like all heavy metals mercury is found in two basic forms: inorganic and organic. Inorganic mercury is found in nature. Organic mercury has passed through a living system of some sort and has come out in the chelated form.

One particularly dangerous form of mercury is methylated mercury, which is produced by the chelating systems of certain bacteria. When inorganic mercury in your amalgams comes into contact with these bacteria found in your digestive tract, it will be converted to methylated mercury and from there make its way to your brain and is stored there! Methylated mercury is hundreds of times more toxic than inorganic mercury and has a particular affinity for the brain where the symptom complex can include mild to severe intellectual impairment and/or emotional impairment. Only chelation therapy can fully and reliably remove this toxin from your body.

An ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure. It is much better to never have amalgams put in. If you already have them I heartily recommend you have them removed as soon as possible, but only by a biological dentist. What is a biological dentist? One who would not put metals into a human being in the first place.

Amalgam, or what dentist euphemistically call "silver filling," is made from fifty percent mercury, thirty-five percent silver and fifteen percent tin, or tin mixed with copper, and a trace of zinc. This blend is malleable and easy for a dentist to work with. Until the mid-1980s dentists assumed no mercury vapor was released from amalgam fillings (and uninfomred dentists still parrot this old party line). Since then, studies have proven a significant level of mercury vapor is released by sublimation (going directly from the solid to the vapor form) and if you are breathing (we hope you are), it is inhaled into the lungs, absorbed into the blood, goes to the liver where it is methylated and from there to the brain and spinal cord where it is stored inside cells. This process takes only a few hours.

The federal agency responsible for regulation of allowable levels of substances at the workplace has established 50 ug./cc as the maximum allowable level of mercury vapor in the workplace. The average level of mercury vapor in the mouths of people with amalgams varies between 50 and 150 ug./cc. When removed from your mouth, dental amalgam is considered toxic waste by the Environmental Protection Agency and must be handled in a certain way to protect dental office personnel from mercury poisoning. This is the same stuff, unchanged, which just came out of your tooth!

There are over 125 known symptoms of mercury toxicity. Most of them are vague and nonspecific. It is not known what role mercury toxicity may play in MS (multiple sclerosis) and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease), however Dr. Hal Huggins, a dentist originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado has developed a protocol for amalgam removal and replacement, and in treating large numbers of MS and ALS patients has noticed improvement of symptoms in 91%. People who were wheelchair bound often get up and walk, sometimes on the same day as amalgam removal!

This rather amazing result is thought to be due to removal of oral galvanic activity (electron flow) and its effect on the base of the brain. You probably have heard of people whose dental amalgams serve as radio antennas. Some of these people actually can hear the local radio stations in their mouths. This much induced electrical activity must have an effect on the brain, and judging from the results of amalgam removal in some cases, this electrical activity must somehow cause or potentiate paralysis.

Other people have nervous system symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, loss of appetite, and these people also demonstrate a high incidence of recovery from these troublesome symptoms after removal of dental amalgams. Many people with severe longstanding depression are benefitted by amalgam removal and chelation.

When a physician hears these vague symptoms from a patient, he/she may not even consider mercury toxicity because these symptoms can be caused by many other conditions and illnesses. Also, the patient forgets to mention the amalgams, and the doctor usually doesn't ask. The dentist, of course, doesn't even hear about these symptoms, because the patient thinks of the dentist as the tooth doctor, and the symptoms of mercury poisoning seem to have nothing to do with teeth. So, dental amalgam induced mercury poisoning slips into the crack between dentistry and medicine.

It is necessary to be aware of a diagnosis before it is possible to make that diagnosis, and the doctor usually does not even suspect a diagnosis of mercury toxicity. Many people who actually are poisoned with mercury are thought of as chronic complainers by their doctors who try to lend a sympathetic ear but actually ignore the complaints because they do not know what else to do. Many a patient with a mouth full of amalgams has heard these words: "It's all in your head." Of course, that is at least half right as the upper teeth are part of the head.

A few of the symptoms which are possible from mercury poisoning are vomiting, gastritis, colitis, bloating, persistent flatulence, excessive salivation, abdominal pain, depression, anger, irritability, sleep disturbance, headaches, heart attack, dizziness, speech disorders, leg cramps, clumsiness, bad breath, fatigue and irritability — just to name some of the 125 which have been documented so far.

The official American Dental Association position on amalgam until recently has been been that not enough mercury is released to pose a hazard — this despite hard evidence to the contrary. That position has changed in the last few years and the new official position is: no position. They are simply hiding from the issue. That leaves dentists on their own in a dental-legal sense when they install mercury in teeth with no support from the ADA. The ADA does want to be present when the axe finally falls in the legal arena. Dental schools have long taught the rationalization that mercury is bound to silver in the amalgam and does not escape to poison the patient. This is wrong. Dental amalgam, after many years, has to be replaced. Why? It has shrunk. Why does it shrink? Because the mercury has sublimated (solid to gas) out of it.

Dentistry in the U.S., as a profession, has not questioned the party line. They respect authority as represented by their trade union, the ADA, too much to be objective about the matter. Now that the ADA is no longer standing behind them, there are a lot of nervous dentists who are quietly recommending that mercury amalgams not be installed and they are more amenable to replacing them at the request of their patients.

In Europe, as usual in such things, there is much more awareness about this issue. Dentists in Europe recommend against using amalgams and suggest the use of composite (a plastic substance) to replace amalgams. In fact in the Scandanavian countries it has been made illegal to install dental amalgam.

I should add a note on "gold" fillings and "gold crowns." This is another euphemism. These things contain only 5-30% gold, enough to give them a nice gold color. However they are almost all loaded with the same metals as dental amalgam. Also, mercury is not the only heavy metal which causes problems in the human body, it is just the most famous one.

Most dentists in the U.S. will drill out your amalgams and replace them, if you insist that you want the procedure for cosmetic reasons. However, I would not have anyone work on my amalgams (if I still had any) who does not really understand the dangers involved. If a dentist does not take this issue seriously, he or she may not be diligent in getting the last bit of amalgam out of each filling before covering it over with composite. If a dentist will install metals in teeth, that dentist just does not get it. My advice in this situation? Keep shopping for a metal free dentist to remove your dental amalgam.

If you already have symptoms of mercury toxicity, these symptoms are coming from mercury already vaporized from your amalgams and now residing in the tissues of your body, particularly in your brain cells. Your amalgams represent a source of future further intoxication and for that reason should be removed. However, to rid your body of mercury which is causing symptoms, only a course of chelation therapy will do the job and this should be done only after the source is removed.

There are special chelating agents for mercury. The agent we use to test mercury level is is 2,3-dimercapto-1-propane-sulfonic acid or DMPS for short. After intavenous infusion of DMPS we collect urine for at least six hours and measure the output of mercury. If it is elevated, a course of chelation, either intravenously with DMPS and EDTA or orally with DMSA and sometimes penacillamine, both mercury chelators, is given orally for one to eight months depending on the level of mercury found in the urine. Then another DMPS test is performed. If still elevated, another course of therapy is warranted and so forth until the urine output of mercury is normal after a DMPS challenge.

Plain blood or urine mercury levels are an inadequate tests, because mercury does not come out of the cells in which it is stored without some help. DMPS liberates a large amount of mercury and the mercury-DMPS complex is then filtered out through the kidneys and can then be measured in the urine. Urine mercury concentration, according to Godfrey and Campbell, shows a sixty-fold increase after DMPS administration in people with amalgam, a thirty-fold increase in dental personnel without amalgams, and only a ten-fold increase in people who have had their amalgams removed followed by a course of chelation therapy. These are average figures, of course, and the study quoted was carefully controlled and statistically significant.

DMPS Challenge is the only adequate laboratory test to correctly diagnose mercury intoxication. A high output of mercury in the urine after intravenous DMPS indicates mercury intoxication. A low level of mercury in the blood or urine in the absence of DMPS administration means nothing except that mercury does not readily come out of the intracellular space.

Remember, mercury enters the body through inhalation. It is not necessary to touch the stuff. People who should be concerned about mercury intoxication, aside from those with dental amalgams in their mouths, are dentists, dental assistants, dental office personnel — anyone who has been around the use of amalgam; people living in the vicinity of mercury mines — even if those mines have been closed for years; people living around volcanoes — active or dormant. I recommend that people in all these categories be tested for mercury.

U.S. dentists, with some notable exceptions, disparage the idea of amalgam-associated mercury toxicity. This is unfortunate for their patients, as well as for the dentists themselves. There is little room for doubt that the unusual incidence of depression, divorce and high rate of suicide in dentists is related to mercury toxicity. Europe, led by Sweden, where dental amalgam is being phased out, is coming around to an official recognition of this problem. Sooner or later, American dentistry must follow. Better late than never, folks!

When having amalgam removed, you will be exposed to a large dose of mercury vapor (as will the dental personnel). This is unavoidable. You should arrange to have an intravenous vitamin C plus L-glutathione infusion that same day an hour or two before or after the dental work. This will chelate the mercury and allow you to excrete it through your kidneys before it can be methylated in the liver or by intestinal bacteria and then deposited in vital organs, thus preventing damage to the brain, immune system, etc., caused by the sudden increase in mercury level. After all the amalgam is out, you should be treated intravenously or orally, but not before the amalgam is out, because the chelators liberate large amounts of mercury from your remaining amalgams. Unfortunately, your dentist is not licensed to give these treatments but should be able to refer you to a medical doctor who can do this. Any doctor who practices chelation therapy should be able to do this service for you.

Two final notes. Some people who are loaded with mercury experience a breakdown in their immune and digestive systems and experience fatigue and brain fog. Here is the article which deals with this subject: Mercury, Gut Wall Infection, and Fatigue. Mercury overload can also slow down the adrenal glands. Here is the article on that subject: Adrenal Fatigue.

Finding the right doctor to help with these problems may be a real challenge. Very few docs have wrapped their minds around all the ramifications of mercury toxicity and around the therapies which work to reverse them.

(See the related article Biological and Mercury Free Dentistry.)



Fritz L. Lorscheider, Ph.D. and Murray S. Vimy, DDS. University of Calgary Medical School, Alberta, Canada.

Drs. Lorscheider and Vimy have shown definitively that mercury is continuously released from amalgam fillings, both as vapor and in microscopic particles, once the fillings are placed in the teeth. The mercury emitted from the fillings is transported to every part of the body via the air pathways, the digestive tract and the blood stream, and accumulates in tissues and organ systems.

1. Dental Amalgam Mercury: Background. (A summary of research results on dental amalgam mercury to date.)M. J. Vimy and F. L. Lorscheider, Faculty of Medicine and Medical Physiuology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta. May, 1993.

2. Dental "Silver" tooth fillings: a source of mercury exposure revealed by whole-body image scan and tissue analysis. By Leszek J. Hahn, Reinhard Woiber, Murray J. Vimy, Yoshimi Takahashi, and Fritz L. Lorscheider. FASEB Journal, Vol.3, Dec. 1989. pp.2641-2646.

3. Whole-body imaging of the distribution ofmercury released from dental fillings into monkey tissues.By Leszek J. Hahn, Reinhard Kloiber, Ronald W. Leininger, Murray J. Vimy, and Fritz L. Lorscheider.FASEB Journal, Vo. 4, Nov.1990, pp.3256-3260.

4. Mercury from dental "silver" tooth fillings impairs sheep kidney function. By N.D. Boyd, H.Benediktsson, M.J. Vimy, D.E. Hooper, and F. L. Lorscheider. American Journal of Physiology, No.261, 1991, pp. R1O1O-1014.

5. Maternal-fetal distribution of mercury (203HG) released from dental amalgam fillings. By M.J. Vimy, Y. Takahashi, and F.L. Lorscheider. American Journal of Physiology, No.258, 1990, pp. R939-945.

6. SYMPOSIUM OVERVIEW: Toxicity Assessment of Mercury Vapor from Dental Amalgams. By Peter L. Goering, W. Don Galloway, Thomas W. Clarkson, Fritz L. Lorscheider, Maths Berlin and Andrew S. Rowland. Journal of Fundamental and Applied Toxicology, vol.19, 1992, pp.319-329.

7. Evaluation ofthe safety issue of mercury release from dental fillings, Fritz L. Lorscheider and Murray J. Vimy. The FASEB Journal, Vol.7, December 1993, p1432-1433.

8. ADP-Ribosylation of Brain Neuronal Proteins Is Altered by In Vitro and In Vivo Exposure to Inorganic Mercury. Pawel Palkiewicz, Henk Zwiers, and Fritz L. Lorscheider. Journal of Neurochemistry,, Vol.62, No.5, 1994, pp.2049-2052


William R. Markesbery, M.D., William D. Ehmann, M.D., (and colleagues at the University of Kentucky's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging).

Drs. Markesbery's and Ehmann's experiments have shown that there are higher concentrations of mercury in the autopsied brains of patients who died of Alzheimer's than are present in the autopsied brains of patients who did not have Alzheimer's. In the Alzheimer's patients' brains, there are also lower concentrations of selenium and zinc, the two chief mineral antagonists of mercury. Markesbery and Ehmann have also demonstrated that there are higher concentrations of mercury in the brains of people who have more and larger amalgam dental fillings. Additional research is underway to link the presence of amalgam mlings more closely with the incidence of Alzheimer's.

9. Trace element imbalances in isolated subcellular fractions of Alzheimer's disease brains. By David Wenstrup, William D. Ehmann, and William R. Markesbery. Brain Research, No 533, 1990, pp. 125-130.

10. Mercury imbalances in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. W. D. Ehmann, E. J. Kasarskis, and W. R. Markesbery. (In Press)


Boyd E. Haley, Ph.D. (and colleagues.) Professor of Medical Chemistry and Biochemistry, Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky.

Dr. Haley has produced tubulin defects in laboratory cultures of brain tissue by adding a low concentration of mercury plus EDTA, a common food additive. Tubulin defects are thought to be the mechanism which produces the neuro fibrillary tangles characteristic of Alzheimer's Disease. Haley has also identified the first biochemical marker for Alzheimer's, that is, an enzyme found in Alzheimer's patients cerebro-spinal fluid which is not found in normal persons and which could be used as one basis of diagnosis for the disease.

11. HG2+ induces GTF-Tubulin interactions in rat brain similar to those observed in Alzheimer's Disease. E. Duhr, C. Pendergrass, E. Kasarskis, J. Slevin & B. Haley. FASEB Journal, 1992. Abstract Dated December 3, 1991.

12. HgEDTA Complex Inhibits GTP Interactions With The E-Site of Brain Beta-Tubulin. Edward F. Duhr, James C. Pendergmass, John T. Slevin, and Boyd E. Haley. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol., 1993.

13. DMSA acid partially restores tubulin intereactions to both Alzheimer's Diseased brains and to HGEDTA treated control brains. J.C. Pendergrass, E.F. Duhr, J.T. Slevin, and B. E. Haley. Experimental Biology 93 Abstract, dated November 17, 1992.

14. Aberrant Guanosine Triphosphate-Beta- Tubulin Interaction in Alzheimer's Disease. Sabiha Khatoon, Ph.D., Susan R. Campbell, B.S., Boyd E. Haley, Ph.D.and John T. Slevin, M.D. Annals of Neurology, Vol.26, No.2, August 1989, pp. 210-215.

15. Detection of glutamine synthetase in the cerebrospinal fluid ofAlzheimer diseased patients: A Potential diagnostic biochemical marker. Debra Gunnersen and Boyd Haley. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Vol.89, pp. 11949-11953, December 1992, Biochemistry.


H. Vasken Aposhian, Ph.D., University Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

Dr. Aposhian has established, through carefully constructed experiments, that in people who have amalgam fillings two-thirds of the total body burden of mercury is the product of mercury absorption from amalgam dental fillings. He has also created a scoring system based upon the number of fillings and the number of surfaces on the fillings, quantifying the expression of the amount of dental amalgam in an individual's mouth. Finally, he has also been experimenting with chelating agents which might remove mercury accumulations from the body.

16. Urinary mercury after administration of 2,3 dimercaptopropane- 1 -sulfonic acid: correlation with den -tal amalgam score. H. Vasken Aposhian, David C. Bruce, Wilfred Alter, Richard C. Dart, Katherine M. Hurlbut, and Mary M. Aposhian. The FASEB Journal, Vo. 6, April 1992, pp. 2472-2476.

17. DMSA and DMPS-Water soluble antidotes for heavy metal poisoning. H. Vasken Aposhian. American Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 1983, Vol.23,193-215.

18. Determination and Metabolism ofDithiol Chelating Agents, XII. Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics of Sodium 2, 3-Dimercap top ropane-2-Sulfonate in Humans. Richard M. Maiorino, Richard C. Cart, Dean E. Carter and H. Vasken Aposhian. The Jourmal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 1991, Vol. 259 No.2, pp.808-814.

19. MESO-2, 3 -DIMERCAPTOS UCCINIC ACID:Chemical, Pharmacological and Toxicological Properties of an Orally Effective Metal Chelating Agent. H. Vasken Aposhian and Mary M. Aposhian.


James S. Woods, Battelle Seattle Research Center and the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, and colleagues.

Dr. Woods has been investigating how kidney tissue is damaged by the presence of maercury. He has also identified ways in which porphyrin relationships are disrupted by the presence of mercury, which could provide another type of marker to test for the presence of mercury in body tissues.

20. Mercury-induced H202 production and lipid per-oxidation in vitro in rat kidney mitochondria. Bert-Ove Lind, Dennis M. Miller and James S. Woods. Biochemical Pharmacology, Vol.42, 1991, Suppl. pp. S181-S187. Pergamon Press.

21. Urinary Porphyrin Profiles as Biomarkers of Trace Metal Exposure and Toxicity: Studies on Urinary Prophyrin Excretion Patterns in Rats during Prolonged Exposure to Methyl Mercury. James S. Woods, Miriam A. Bowers, and Holly A. Davis. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Vol.110, 1991, pp.464-476.

22. Enhancement of Gamma-Glutamylcysteine Syn-thetase mRNA in Rat Kidney by Methyl Mercury. James S. Woods, Holly A. Davis, and Robert P. Baer. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Vol. 296, No.1, July 1992, pp. 350-353.

23. Quantitative Determination of Porphyrins in Rat and Human Un tie and Evalution of Urinary Prophyrin Profiles during Mercury and Lead Exposures. Miriam A. Bowers, Lauri J. Aicher, Holly A. Davis, and James S. Woods. The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, St. Louis. Vol.120, No.2, pp.272-281, August, 1992.


Anne 0. Summers, Ph.D., Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Dr. Summers has been engaged in research on gastrointestinal tract bacteria and their resistance to antibiotics, which is a serious and widespread medical problem. With the collaboration of Drs. Lorscheider and Vimy and Dr. Stuart Levy at Tufts University, she has demonstrated that bacterial resistance to antibiotics can be created by exposing GI tract bacteria to mercury, such as that absorbed into the GI tract through the presence of amalgam dental fillings in the mouth.

24. "Silver" Dental Fillings Provoke An Increase in Mercury and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in the Mouth and Intestines of Primates. Anne 0. Summers, Murray Vimy and Fritz Lorscheider, The Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA) Newsletter, Fall 1991, Vol.9, No.3, pp.4-5.

25. Mercury Released from Dental "Silver" Fillings provokes an increase in Mercury- and Antibiotic-Resis-taut Bacteria in Oral and Intestinal Flora of Primates.

Anne 0. Summers, Joy Wireman, Murray J. Vimy, Fritz L.Lorscheider, Bonnie Marshall, Stuart B. Levy, Sam Bennett, and Lynne Billard. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, April 1993, Vol.37, No.4, p.825-834.


Alfred V. Zamm, M.D., FACA, FACP, ill Maiden Lane, Kingston, New York 12401-4597   Reports on clinical treatment of a wide variety of illnesses linked to dental amalgam mercury toxicity by a dermatologist and allergy specialist.

26. Candida Albicans Therapy: is there ever an end to it? Dental Mercury Removal: an effective adjunct. Alfred V. Zamm, M.D., FACA, FACP. Journal of 0rthomolecu-lar Medicine, Vol.1 No.4, pp.261-266.

27. Dental Mercury: A Factor That Aggravates and Induces Xenobiotic Intolerance. Alfred V. Zamm, M.D., FACA, FACP. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Vo. 6 No.2, Second Quarter 1991, pp.67-77.

28. Mercury and Dentistry: What the Sensitive Patient Should Know. Alfred V. Zamm, M.D., FACA, FACP. The Mercury in Medicine and Dentistry Newsletter Quarterly, Vol.1 No.1, Autumn 1986, pp.1-8.

29. Removal of Dental Mercury: Often an Effective Treatment for the Very Sensitive Patient. Alfred V Zamm, MD, FACA, FACP. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Vol.5, No.3, Third Quarter 1990, pp.138-


30. Effect of dental amalgam and nickel alloys on T-lymphocytes: preliminary report. Eggleston, David W. DDS. Journal of prosthetic dentistry: May 1984, Vol 31, No.5.

31. Correlation of dental amalgam with mercury in brain tissue. Eggleston David W. DDS, Magnus Nylander DDS, et al. J. Pros. Dent. 58:704-7,1987

32. Dental Amalgam: A Review of the Literature. Eggleston, DW: Compend. Cont. Ed. Dent. Vol. X, No.9.

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The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.
Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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