Mercury - Toxicity of Dental Amalgam - Why you should have your dental amalgams removed
In November 2003 I chaired a Scientific Meeting of the British Society for Allergy Environmental and Nutritional Medicine (now the British Society for Environmental Medicine) at The Royal College of General Practitioners, which spent the day discussing the toxicity of mercury amalgam. Up until that day I had been advising patients to remove mercury amalgams when the opportunity arose and replace them with white, gold or ceramic fillings. Since that meeting I have had all my mercury fillings replaced. The evidence presented was so compelling that I am now advising all my patients to get rid of their mercury fillings as part of any general work up to almost any health problem, including wishing to live to a ripe old age!
Professor Fritz Lorscheider presented his work over the past ten years. The first question he wanted answering was whether mercury leaches out from dental amalgam. At room temperature, mercury is a liquid and in dental amalgam it is not chemically bound into the amalgam, but there as a liquid, albeit a very tough and stiff liquid. Lorscheider took some sheep, filled their molars with dental amalgam which was radioactively labelled and four months later scanned the sheep to discover the mercury had deposited in their bones, kidneys and in the brain. The next question was: what does this mercury do in the brain?
It just so happened that the adjacent laboratory had set up in vitro experiments so that individual nerve cells could be seen growing using time lapse photography. For a nerve cell to grow nerves which conduct electricity, the first step is a cylindrical cytoskeleton which gives the nerve fibre some structure and the delicate nerve then grows up inside this cytoskeleton. This stiff tube is made up of a protein called tubulin and using the photography one can actually see the nerve fibre growing. Lorscheider then infused some mercury at a very tiny concentration, considerably less than would be found in the saliva of a person with mercury amalgams. At this concentration the growing nerves collapsed because mercury destroyed tubulin so the nerve fibres no longer had any structure.
The pathology of this is similar to Alzheimer's disease, in which neuro-fibrillary tangles are formed. Essentially Lorscheider is telling us that mercury causes Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is also associated with aluminium poisoning and, indeed, aluminium is a very similar metal to mercury in the periodic table of elements. The main source of aluminium is from antacids, antiperspirants and cooking foil, pots and pans.
In California, Sweden and Germany mercury amalgam has been banned. Recently it has been banned in Norway. We should not be using mercury amalgam in U.K.
The early symptoms of mercury poisoning can be very variable but may include loss of short term memory, a metallic taste in the mouth (this is difficult since taste is relative and amalgam is constantly present) and fine tremor. Mercury may also cause personality changes (like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland). It is also toxic to the nerves of the heart and may be a cause of electrical dysrhythmias (palpitations).
There are logical reasons to link mercury and other heavy metals with autism. All children now receive a plethora of vaccinations, many of which contain mercury or aluminium. Lynn Redwood, an American nurse, calculated that her autistic son received 187.5 micrograms of mercury (thimerosal) during the first six months of his life, which is considerably more than the recommended annual dose for adults. Some symptoms of autism overlap with the Mad Hatter's symptoms of mercury intoxication. A study of 400 autistic children published in New Scientist recently looked at the levels of mercury in the hair of autistic children and showed they had a much lower level than normal children. This was the opposite of what the researchers were expecting to find, until they realized that the autistic children were unable to excrete mercury. This meant that the mercury built up in their brains to cause neurological symptoms. An ongoing study now, yet to be published, showed that mercury chelation therapy was superior to any other therapy for treating autistic children.
This certainly squares with my view of other diseases. It is the people who are the slow detoxifiers who are not good at getting rid of chemicals, partly through genetics, poor diet or through poor micronutrient status, who are susceptible to illness. The view at the Lorscheider meeting was that with childhood vaccinations one should be highly selective as to those given and only use vaccinations which are mercury-free. At present this is difficult. There is an urgent need for mercury-free vaccinations to be made generally available. The problem now is that mercury in vaccinations is being replaced by aluminium, which may be as toxic.
There was then a discussion about how to remove the fillings. Dr Lorscheider's view was that if you are relatively well, then just go ahead and get the fillings replaced by your usual dentist. However, if you have symptoms which may be mercury-related, then you should get your fillings changed by a dentist specialising in mercury-free dentistry. This is because in removing fillings more mercury is released into the body which may cause acute clinical symptoms.
To find a local mercury free dentist, go to: SOCIETY FOR MERCURY FREE DENTISTRY.
For a good book on the subject, purchase "Mercury Free Dentistry - Menace In The Mouth" by Dr. Jack Levenson
A telling video can be seen at the ITV Tonight "Mercury Amalgam Fillings Dangers" report on Youtube where the Chief Dental Officer tries to suggest that no mercury comes out of dental amalgam, let alone measurably. He makes a fool of himself in the process.
Testing for mercury toxicity
It is estimated by the British Dental Association that approximately 3% of the population are sensitive to mercury in amalgam and this could be causing a host of symptoms, including immune dysfunction and chronic fatigue syndrome. The best advice is never to have mercury amalgam in teeth (so called "silver" fillings are all mercury amalgams), but the fact of the matter is that most people have. To determine whether or not one is sensitive relies on a combination of the patient's history, symptoms and signs and testing.
Testing can be aimed at looking at the total load of mercury (such as hair analysis or sweat analysis), but this can be unreliable since heavy metals are very poorly excreted and people may have the highest body burdens because they are poor excreters.
Biolab offer a Toxic elements in urine test. I use this test following a dose of DMSA as a chelating agent, for assessing mercury (and other heavy metal) levels. Urine mercury levels measured after a DMSA load will provide good evidence of mercury toxicity. Test kits are provided on an individual basis ensuring the correct weight-related dose of DMSA is provided. Please, contact the office to confirm the overall price of this test, including the DMSA capsules needed to do the test.
Allergy to mercury can be assessed by a Lymphocyte sensitivity to metals and chemicals.
The problem with removing mercury from dental fillings is that inevitably some mercury is released. Good dental techniques by a dentist experienced and skilled in using techniques such as rubber dam will reduce this release. One can reduce absorption in the gut by using charcoal. The idea here is that charcoal absorbs mercury onto its surface and prevents it from getting into the body. One used to be able to buy charcoal biscuits very easily, but it seems more difficult now. If you can get them, I would suggest 2 biscuits or 50g charcoal just before extraction and then 50g every 4 hours for 24 hours after the extraction.
Detoxing mercury after amalgams have been removed
There are many ways in which mercury can be stripped out from the body. Simply doing a good Stone Age Diet, taking probiotics and taking my standard package of micronutrients, which includes selenium, iodine, vitamin C and magnesium, is an excellent start. See Detoxification - an overview. In fact, more often I now prescribe the ketogenic diet - please see Ketogenic diet - the practical details and My book The PK Cookbook - Go Paleo-ketogenic and get the best of both worlds.
We then have the bolt-on extras according to how bad the poisoning is. These would include:
- Selenium 500mcgms at night (sodium selenate 5 drops) - selenium displaces mercury from its binding sites. One then needs a good supply of sulphur-containing amino-acids - mercury loves sulphur groups - such as glutathione 250mgs daily or methionine 250mgs daily - then the mercury is excreted in urine. The principles are the same for nickel toxicity Nickel - a nasty toxic metal
- Vitamin C 4 grams daily. The best form of vitamin C is ascorbic acid and the slight acidity will render the urine acidic, which helps to strip out heavy metals.
- Possibly additional iodine 25mg once daily (as Iodoral 2 tablets)
- DMSA strips mercury out remarkably well. We know that, simply by doing a Kelmer test! The only problem is that some people do not tolerate DMSA very well, in which case we have to rely on the above interventions. If tolerated, DMSA is the most reliable way of stripping out mercury. It is not known if DMSA is excreted in breast milk so it is probably safest to avoid DMSA whilst breast feeding.
- Phospholipid exchange. The idea here is that most neurotoxins, including mercury, are concentrated in fats. Give the body lots of clean fats and these will physically displace the dirty fats which can then be eliminated, with their toxic load, in the bile. See Phospholipid exchange.
- Mercury magnet: this certainly looks like a good idea that seems well tried and tested and free from side effects. The idea is that you eat a natural non-absorbable chelating agent that pulls mercury out of bile from the gut. Indeed, it might be very logical to combine this with Phospholipid exchange. I have a few patients trying it and I look forward to seeing if their Kelmer tests improve.
DMSA chelation therapy
This works well using oral DMSA. The problem is that it also strips out the trace metals, so one must not use trace elements on the day of DMSA, but then use them on subsequent days as a rescue remedy! I used to have a regime of doing DMSA monthly for four days but actually it makes more sense to do it weekly. The regime would be:
- Eat your normal stonage diet and take your normal nutritional package of supplements
- Make one day a week your detox DMSA day!
- No minerals on DMSA day
- Take 10-30mgs DMSA per kilogram body weight in one dose on an empty stomach before breakfast. Start with a small dose and build up according to tolerance. The DMSA comes in 100mgs capsules. If you are allergic or chemically sensitive just take one capsule initially! A 70 kg (11 stone) person could move up to take 7 or 8 x 100mgs DMSA, or more, if all goes well. The more DMSA you can tolerate the quicker will be the detox! But any problems and reduce the dose.
- If tolerated take up to 4 grams of ascorbic acid during the course of the day to acidify the urine - this help strip out the mercury. Drink 1-2 litres of clear fluids during the course of the day.
- Mobilising mercury can make you worse, so start with small doses and adjust according to your response! Some people just do not tolerate DMSA at all!
Far Infrared saunaing strips out pesticides and volatile organic compounds reliably well. It will also take out heavy metals to a certain extent, but not as reliably well as chelation therapy using the Kelmer agent (DMSA); however, it is also a useful move in the right direction.
At the end of this regime it would be well worth rechecking levels by repeating a Kelmer test to make sure that the mercury load has been reduced and get some indication as to whether it is necessary to continue with further high dose micronutrients to get rid of the remaining mercury.
- Mercury - Kelmer test
- Lymphocyte sensitivity to metals and chemicals - mercury needs to be selected as the tested substance.
- Stone Age Diet
- Ketogenic diet - the practical details
- My book The PK Cookbook - Go Paleo-ketogenic and get the best of both worlds.
- Nutritional Supplements - what everybody should be taking all the time even if nothing is wrong
- Detoxing - Far Infrared Sauna (FIRS)
- Smoking Teeth - a dramatic video demonstrating the level of release of vapours from mercury fillings.
- SOCIETY FOR MERCURY FREE DENTISTRY
- Lorscheider, F.L., Vimy, M,J., and Summers, A.O. Mercury exposure from "silver" tooth fillings: emerging evidence questions a traditional dental paradigm. FASEB Journal 9:504-508, 1995.
- Leong, C.C.W., Syed, NLI., and Lorscheider, F.L. Retrograde degeneration of neurite membrane structural integrity of nerve growth cones following in vitro exposure to mercury. NeuroReport 12: 733-737, 2001.
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