According to the NIH (National Institute of Health), mercury amalgams have been used in dentistry for more than a century. In fact, it is one of the most used materials in the industry, accounting for approximately 75% of all materials used by dentists. Due to its low cost and durability, it was widely used without question; however, more recently, amalgams have generated a lot of controversy due to the possible health risks.
As an alternative, tooth-colored materials for dental restorations have been developed in recent years. If you or a loved one have or are planning on getting amalgam fillings, keep reading this article for more information and learn about your healthier options!
What is an amalgam filling?
Amalgam fillings are a combination of materials that are used to fill cavities in the case of tooth decay. Usually, this filing is a mixture of metals, typically consisting of liquid mercury (according to the FDA, approximately 50%), copper, and silver. These are more commonly known as “silver-fillings or mercury amalgams” due to their appearance.
Are amalgam fillings safe?
Amalgam fillings are made up of a mixture of metals (primary mercury). This metal concoction is designed to be soft and malleable to meld into people’s teeth easily; this is how cavities are filled. These are dangerous because amalgam fillings release low mercury levels in the form of a vapor (due to the age of the filling or actions such as drinking hot drinks) that are inhaled and absorbed by the body.
The effects of mercury on the human body depends on several factors: your age, the amount of mercury, exposure time, etc. Symptoms are usually subtle and tend to worsen over time. Some of these may include:
- Early signs:
- Low energy levels
- Poor memory
- Advanced symptoms:
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin rash
- Long-term complications:
- Neurological damage
However, very recently, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) finally admitted that mercury amalgams could be harmful to:
- Pregnant or nursing women and their babies
- Children younger than the age of 6
- Anyone with pre-existing neurological disease
- Or anyone with impaired kidney function
Suppose an amalgam filling is improperly removed from your mouth by a traditional dentist. In that case, there may be a significant increase in mercury vapor exposure, and you may accidentally ingest the tiny metal particles during the procedure. Due to the high risk of mercury toxicity, we strictly follow and recommend Dr. Hal Huggins’s protocol for safe mercury amalgam removal.
The Huggins Protocol is an integrated system that incorporates multiple safety factors for dental procedures. Huggins Applied Healing is dedicated to providing alternative dental materials and techniques related to various health concerns.
This protocol helps us to focus on you as a whole, not just your mouth. Once we safely remove the metals from your teeth, we perform an in-depth blood study to determine if you have elevated levels of mercury in your body due to previous amalgam fillings. This is referred to as “metal toxicity.” If high levels of mercury are found to be present, we will recommend a detoxification plan known as “chelation” to remove the heavy metals from the system.
Here are the steps we follow to ensure our patient’s safety when removing mercury amalgams:
- We will provide you with chewable activated charcoal tablets to prevent amalgam from sticking to soft tissues (gums, cheeks).
- The dental team and patients wear personal protection equipment so that no amalgam particles adhere to their clothing or skin.
- We use superficial nasal cannulas (small, flexible tubes containing two open prongs intended to sit inside your nostrils) to ensure you do not inhale toxins and have enough oxygen levels during your procedure.
- You will receive intravenous vitamin C to help your immune system with detoxification.
- We use ionizers (air purifiers) in each room to remove potentially dangerous particles from the air.
- We provide you with oral suction to remove toxic air particles resulting from the amalgam removal.
- A vacuum is used (we call it “elephant’s trunk”) 3-4 inches from your mouth to catch any flying amalgam particles.
- The amalgam is then removed in chunks.
- The water used on the unit and drill is ozonated to eliminate local pathogens.
- In the end, we will provide you with another chewable charcoal tablet to bind to and remove any remaining metal from the mouth.
What materials can be used instead of dental amalgams?
Composite resin fillings are an excellent alternative to dental amalgam fillings. These filings are tooth-colored, which also makes them more aesthetically pleasing, and at the same time, they are bio-compatible for your system.
The resin typically lasts for approximately 5 to 10 years; however, if you have good dental hygiene in your daily routine or visit the dentist every 6 to 8 months, the life span of those resins may be longer.
With that said, resins are recommended to be applied in small spaces; when used on a large surface, it tends to modify its structure (in other words, it shrinks), causing leakage issues, and consequently, cavities begin around and under the fillings. If the place to work is prominent, it is advised to apply either an inlay or onlay instead.
This type of filling does not have any shape modification because it is made in the laboratory, and it is cemented in your tooth.
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