Elizabeth Renter

Just a few decades ago, it was completely common to go to the dentist with a cavity or two and leave with several silver-colored fillings. And while these fillings were frequently referred to as “silver,” dental professionals were referring to the color, and certainly not the contents. Those fillings are mercury, and they are highly toxic. Now, about half of American dentists are mercury-free and the general population is starting to take note on the dangers of the dental amalgam mercury fillings in their mouths.

Mercury Fillings to be Banned Due to Health Hazards

The European Commission has paved the way, in recent weeks, for phasing out dental mercury, but it seems the United States is not ready.

According to the Commission:

Mercury and most of its compounds are highly toxic to humans, animals and ecosystems. High doses can be fatal to humans, but even relatively low doses can seriously affect the nervous system and have been linked with possible harmful effects on the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems.

Despite these devastating effects, even the E.U. stops short of mentioning the specific dangers of mercury fillings, instead focusing on the dangers of mercury in general.

But, if mercury can cause these problems when ingested, couldn’t it also cause problems as it sits in your mouth, potentially giving off vapors when damaged and leeching into your foods and saliva?

The procedures taken by trained dentists when removing these fillings is sufficient evidence of the dangers of mercury amalgam fillings. They must provide an alternate airflow for the patient, so they do not breath the contaminated air from the mouth. A dam must be used to limit swallowing and inhalation. Protective gear must be worn on the body and face, and air purifiers are used. These precautions indicate a serious risk is present.

But the United States has been ‘shockingly slow‘ to do anything to reduce the use of these mercury fillings, particularly when compared with countries in Europe. Sweden has phased out dental amalgam completely and this latest move by the E.U. indicates it will soon be eliminated on the continent.

About 77 percent of Americans who are told their amalgam filling is mostly mercury would opt for an alternative, and would be willing to pay more for it. Resin composite fillings are more expensive, but are safe and well worth the cost. When the external costs of mercury fillings are considered (including damage to the environment and health care costs), the alternative fillings aren’t much more expensive at all. Another way to reduce costs and dentist visits? One simple solution to avoiding these fillings altogether is to learn how to prevent cavities.

There is really nothing new about the dangers of mercury, or its high presence in today’s society. It’s a highly toxic substance and science has recognized this for some time. However, many maintain dental amalgam is safe, despite research to the contrary. The good news is that the European Commission’s action may pave the way for a similar closer look by American officials– though we aren’t entirely hopeful, considering the EU’s commitment to GMO labeling has not rubbed off on the U.S. at all.

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