Can Mercury Fillings Cause Health Problems?

Can Mercury Fillings Cause Health Problems?

The most common type of dental filling is the mercury amalgam filling. It is made by mixing liquid mercury with a powdered of silver, copper, and tin. This creates a putty that is approximately 50% mercury, which rapidly hardens once it has been placed in the mouth. These fillings have been used for over 150 years and in millions of teeth all over the world, according to the FDA.

Some people have reported feeling health problems which they have associated with their fillings. If you are one of those people you may be wondering whether it really is your fillings, and whether you should have them removed. Read on to find out.

Is mercury toxic?

Elemental mercury is toxic. Dental amalgam fillings do release small amounts of mercury vapour which can be inhaled. Large doses of mercury can cause negative effects in the brain and kidneys.

However, the FDA has assessed the scientific evidence and reports that dental amalgam is safe to use on people over 6 years of age. It says that clinical studies have found no link between dental amalgam and health problems. The reason for the minimum age limit is that younger brains may be more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of mercury.

Why is mercury used in dental fillings?

You may be wondering why a known toxic substance is used in our mouths at all, even if it probably isn’t a risk. Mercury amalgam has become the standard filling material because it is so strong and hardwearing. It’s also relatively easy to produce and is quite cheap.

What about bioaccumulation?

Bioaccumulation is the name given to the gradual build-up of a chemical in body tissues. This happens if you are taking in a chemical that your body can’t remove. Usually, molecules that aren’t useful to the body are removed as waste when you use the bathroom, but some chemicals can’t be removed in this way. Over many years even a small amount taken in can lead to a build-up. You may therefore be worried that the fillings you received when you were a teen have been leading to many years of bioaccumulation.

The FDA does say that studies haven’t shown any damage due to mercury build-up, and they point you to further reading, here.

Should I have my fillings removed?

The FDA recommends that fillings which are in good condition should be left in place, as the process of removing them can cause more mercury to be released. If you are concerned, however, and want to have your fillings removed, you should contact a SMART certified dentist. The SMART protocol stands for Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique and involves a sequence of safety measures a dentist must take to ensure that exposure to mercury is reduced during the process.

We’ve written in detail about the SMART protocol before. To give a brief summary, the protocol requires the use of air filtering equipment in the room, and a separator for the waste water. In addition, the patient is given a charcoal slurry to consume beforehand so that any consumed mercury is safely removed from the body, and everyone in the room must wear protective gowns to ensure that mercury doesn’t adhere to clothing.

Considering that the FDA doesn’t consider mercury amalgam dangerous, you may be wondering why the dentist removing them has to take such precautions. Think of the last time your dentist took an x-ray of your teeth. You probably weren’t given any protection, but the dentist left the room! This is because just the one dose you received isn’t that significant, but the dentist has to take many x-rays and over time that could become a problem. The same is true for your mercury fillings. While they’re in your mouth you aren’t exposed to that much mercury, but when the dentist is removing them, you are both exposed to higher levels, so precautions are taken.

If you want to have your mercury amalgam fillings removed, and you want to ensure that they are removed according to the SMART protocol, contact Dr. Mandanas today.

Mercury Filling Removal and the Importance of SMART Certification

Removal of mercury amalgam fillings is a concern that more people are sharing.

We’ve previously written about reasons why people may choose to have their mercury amalgam fillings removed, here. Among these reasons are concerns about aesthetics, wear or damage, or mercury content.

Whatever your reason for wanting a change, you should make sure that the dentist you choose to remove your old mercury fillings is SMART certified. We’ll go into detail about what exactly SMART is in the next section, but first, we’ll explain why it’s so important to have your fillings removed by a specially trained dentist.

The FDA says that mercury amalgam fillings are safe as long as they aren’t damaged. However, the risk of mercury vapor being emitted is greater during the removal process.

This is why it is important to have a SMART certified dentist remove your mercury amalgam fillings.

What is SMART?

SMART stands for Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique.

It was created by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. You can read more about the IAOMT and the SMART protocol in more detail, here.

The SMART protocol is a multi-step process that ensures that no mercury is inhaled by either dental personnel or the patient. It requires the dentist to put in place many precautions so that the patient is completely safe.

These precautions include:

  • Installation of an amalgam separator to remove amalgam waste from general effluent.
  • Filtration and airflow in the room where removal takes place, to ensure the removal of mercury fumes.
  • The patient is given a slurry made of charcoal or a similar substance which will fix the mercury so that it is safely removed from the body, should any be swallowed.
  • Protective gowns for all people in the room to ensure mercury does not adhere to clothes or the body.
  • Appropriate gloves, face shields, and hairnets should be worn by both the patient and dental personnel.
  • The dental personnel should wear a face mask capable of filtering mercury particles.
  • The patient should be given an oxygen mask that covers the nose so that they don’t breathe in mercury vapors.
  • The dentist should use a dental dam and a suction device to ensure mercury vapors and particles are collected and not ingested or inhaled.
  • A drill is used to remove the amalgam in as large chunks as possible.
  • After removal, the patient’s mouth is rinsed with water and a charcoal slurry again

Important safety steps

This breakdown of the process may make it sound as though mercury amalgam fillings are highly dangerous and may make you ask why they are allowed to be used in the first place. It is important to remember that when mercury is mixed into the amalgam that is put into your mouth, it is deemed safe. However, the process of removal causes some of that mercury to be released, which can then cause health issues.

It is also important to remember that the biggest health risk is to the dentist, as they are exposed many times over. Consider the way your dentist behaves when taking x-rays of your teeth. You may wonder why they leave the room, while you are given no protection. This is because a single dose is not harmful, but the dentist is exposed many times over their career. A good dentist will make sure they have all the proper safety procedures in place.

If you want to have your mercury amalgam fillings removed, and you want to ensure that they are removed according to the SMART protocol, contact Dr. Mandanas today.

Here's Why You Should Go to a SMART Certified Dentist in Anchorage

Here’s Why You Should Go to a SMART Certified Dentist in Anchorage

If you’ve opened this blog, you are probably wondering what “SMART certified dentist” means.

Our very own Dr. Mandanas is a SMART certified dentist in Anchorage. We are very excited to share how this certification makes us different from other dentists and what makes it so beneficial to our patients!

You’ll learn why going to a SMART certified dentist matters. We hope you get a lot out of this blog, especially the information you need to make a smart choice about your dental provider (wink, wink). Enjoy!

What Does “SMART Certified Dentist” Mean?

The acronym SMART stands for the Smart Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique. The SMART certification is something administered by the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT), a global network of dentists, health professionals, and scientists who research the biocompatibility of dental products.

Biocompatibility (our definition) – Compatibility with the mouth and body, typically used in reference to dental treatments and devices, meaning that they do not pose a risk to the health of the mouth and body.

You can learn more about biocompatibility in our blog, What Is Biocompatible Dentistry? Philosophy and Practice.

The IAOMT is especially interested in the risks associated with mercury amalgam fillings. The Smart Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART) was created to protect the mouth and body against those risks.

Why Does Going to a SMART Certified Dentist in Anchorage Matter?

So what are the risks of mercury amalgam fillings and why does going to a SMART certified dentist matter?

The risks of mercury amalgam are not agreed on by the scientific community. Mercury amalgam fillings release low levels of mercury in the form of vapors over their lifetime. The levels of mercury vapors released by amalgam fillings are not high enough to pose a risk to your health. Both the American Dental Association (ADA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have marked amalgam fillings safe for use in dental practice. However, studies have shown changes in the health complaints of patients who have had their amalgam fillings removed, though the exact reasons for these results have yet to be determined

There are many reasons why you might want to get your mercury amalgam fillings removed besides concern over mercury vapors. Mercury amalgam fillings have a lifespan of 10-15 years, which means they need to be replaced if they are getting old or worn. They can also cause teeth to chip and crack. You can learn more in our blog, 5 Reasons Why You Should Get Your Amalgam Fillings Replaced.

Because health complaints have been correlated with the removal of mercury amalgam fillings specifically, when you need to get your fillings removed, you should go to a SMART certified dentist. A SMART certified dentist is trained to protect you from the risks of mercury amalgam and they will replace your fillings with composite, a material that is known to be biocompatible, or, safe for your mouth and body.

What Is the Smart Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique?

The Smart Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique is a protocol that SMART certified dentists use to remove mercury amalgam fillings as safely as possible. We have broken it down into 10 easy-to-understand steps in our blog, What Is the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique? Get SMART About Your Fillings. The protocol includes water separation and air filtration devices, mercury absorbent cleaning materials, protective coverings, and more.

Do you need fillings or are you interested in getting your mercury amalgam fillings removed? We would love to get you in to see our SMART certified dentist here in Anchorage, Dr. Mandanas. She can discuss your treatment options with you and talk more about the risks of mercury amalgam. Schedule an appointment today!

What Is the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique? Get SMART About Your Fillings

What Is the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique? Get SMART About Your Fillings

In a previous article, we discussed five reasons why you should get your mercury amalgam fillings removed. We mentioned that our own Dr. Mandanas is trained in the safe removal of mercury amalgam. But what does that mean?

The Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique or “SMART” was developed by the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT) as a set of scientific research-backed safety recommendations and protective measures for the removal of mercury amalgam silver fillings. It was built on traditional practices of safe removal combined with new conventions as scientific research continues to make new discoveries regarding mercury amalgam fillings. The technique protects both people and the environment from the harmful impact of mercury vapors and amalgam particulate. It is presented as a set of recommendations and not requirements, so it is up to the discretion of licensed practitioners to determine how they will use SMART in their practice. For this reason, it is important for you, the patient to be educated in SMART so that you can be an advocate for your own safety and the safety of those around you!

The Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART)

The Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique is fully outlined by the IAOMT but it can be summarized into ten steps. Be sure to view the IAOMT’s detailed outline for a complete understanding of the SMART process. Generally speaking, SMART involves the following requirements:

  1. In order to prevent mercury amalgam from getting into the liquid waste of the dental office and releasing into the environment, the dentist should install an amalgam separator in their wastewater system.
  2. The room where the mercury amalgam removal procedure occurs should have proper air filtration systems in place and any windows should be opened to remove the mercury vapor and amalgam particles released by the procedure.
  3. Before the procedure, the patient should be given a mixture of charcoal (or a similar absorbent material) and water to rinse and swallow unless she declines or if she has a medical reason now to take it.
  4. The patient, dentist, and dental personnel involved in the procedure should all be wearing protective gowns and covers to protect them from mercury amalgam particulate.
    • The dentist and dental personnel should also be wearing non-latex nitrile gloves, face shields, hair/head coverings, and a proper mask.
    • The patient should also be wearing a nasal mask, a non-latex nitrile dental dam, and a saliva ejector beneath the dental dam.
  5. An oral aerosol vacuum should be used within two to four inches of the patient’s mouth.
  6. Significant amounts of water and an evacuation device should be used to reduce heat and capture mercury discharges.
  7. The mercury amalgam should be removed in as large of pieces as possible.
  8. After the procedure, the patient’s mouth should be thoroughly flushed with water and rinsed a second time with the charcoal mixture.
  9. The dentist and the dental personnel should comply with all federal, state, and local regulations for the proper cleaning and disposal of all mercury-affected clothes, covers, equipment, and surfaces.
  10. Protective equipment should continue to be used during the maintenance of the suction system.

If you are interested in getting your mercury amalgam fillings safely removed, get in touch with Dr. Mandanas! As mentioned previously, Dr. Mandanas is fully trained in the SMART process and she will be an advocate with you for your safety. Dr. Mandanas is an integrative dentist who views the body as a whole and cares about the effects of dental materials, including mercury amalgam, on the rest of the body.