Dentists have been using dental amalgam to fill cavities for more than 150 years. Now one group is suing the FDA, claiming that people are getting sick and that silver fillings need to be banned.
“I was trying to avoid mercury when I was pregnant and nursing,” said Amy Forseter. “I knew all the fish not to eat, but I had no idea it could be in my mouth.”
Forseter has had more than a dozen cavities, most of them filled with dental amalgam, a mixture of metals that’s 50 percent liquid mercury, a naturally occurring element that’s highly toxic.
“As soon as I learned that I had these toxins in my mouth, I wanted to immediately get it removed,” said Forseter.
Some scientists have said the mercury from these fillings can leak and seep into the body and cause neurological problems for some people.
“If you’re a healthy person who can detox this, there may not be any noticeable changes,” said Dentist Dr. Kimberly Baer. “But for those of us who cannot detox this, this is detrimental.”
Dr. Baer says most people won’t have any problems with dental amalgam. But for young children, pregnant women, and those who have compromised immune systems or other conditions like lyme disease that make it tough for their bodies to get rid of heavy metals, they could be at risk for mercury poisoning.
“It accumulates. It accumulates in your organs and it accumulates in your tissues,” said Dr. Baer.
Earlier this month a group of dentists, scientists and patients filed suit against the FDA, claiming the agency hasn’t done enough to address any potential health hazards of amalgam and that it’s low income groups - including welfare recipients, prisoners and even members of the military who often end up with these fillings because they don’t have a choice – who are mostly affected.
“What it really comes down to with mercury fillings is economics. The dentists are put in a difficult situation where the insurance companies are strong arming them into using it because the material is cheaper for the insurance to reimburse on,” said Dr. Baer.
As for removing existing fillings solely to avoid toxins, the American Dental Association is against the practice since a healthy tooth is lost in the process and the patient can be exposed to even more mercury vapor than if the fillings had been left alone.
Some European countries have banned amalgam fillings; however, the FDA maintains that these fillings are safe and that the amount of mercury that can leak way is below safety standards.